They are our qualified women. Engineers, lawyers, nurses, teachers, economists, accountants, architects, analysts and a wide array of other professionals who we, as a nation, have heavily subsidised so that they can receive a higher education and make a valued contribution to our society.
We have invested a fortune in them. We have told them since they were little girls that they can achieve anything in life. But after they become mothers, they discover the cruel truth: the system is rigged against them.
According to the Grattan Institute, if Australia had the same level of working mothers as Canada, an increase of just 6%, there’d be a $20 billion boost to our economy. We’d dramatically lift the nation’s productivity (without a shred of industrial unrest) and significantly increase the amount of HECS debt that is repaid to the government. Rivers of revenue gold! And we’d be harnessing a massive cohort of educated women, whose contributions to innovation, research, healthcare, education, management, leadership and myriad fields of endeavour would benefit the entire nation.
The solution is surprisingly simple: if childcare was tax deductible for working parents – sensibly capped and coupled with subsidies for low-income earners – childcare would be more affordable and more educated mothers would work, and for longer hours.