Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why doesn't paid leave raise birth rates?

There's a big push in Australia right now to introduce paid maternity leave. A new political party called What Women Want has been formed to agitate for paid leave, and the media is awash with articles from both the left and right supporting the idea.

Finance Minister Nick Minchin, though, has been solidly opposed to the idea of paid maternity leave. Back in 2002, he rejected introducing such a scheme because:

There is no evidence that paid maternity leave in particular increases the fertility rate. Twenty out of 24 developed countries with paid maternity leave have lower fertility rates than Australia.

My Department has now formally costed paid maternity leave at between $415m and $780m per annum depending on the rate of pay and eligibility. This would be a major new burden on taxpayers.

I cannot see the justification for taxpayers handing over an additional half a billion dollars to mothers in the paid workforce while ignoring all other mothers.

And he is right. Even if you pay women a full salary to stay home with their children, there is no overall benefit to the fertility rate. The country in the OECD with the highest fertility rate, the USA (2.09), has one of the least developed systems of paid leave.

Australia in 2006 had a fertility rate of 1.81, which is similar to that of countries with paid maternity schemes such as Denmark (1.76) and Sweden (1.86) - but without the very high taxes required to fund the Scandinavian systems.

Which raises an important question. Why doesn't offering such generous financial incentives to women increase their motivation to have children?

The socialised family

In 2003 Elizabeth Kath wrote a lengthy paper titled titled "The Mother of All Battles: Why Paid Maternity Leave is Overdue in Australia".

Her argument is that paid maternity leave is necessary to transform the role of women from the oppressive traditional one of mother to that of professional careerist. We are to abandon the idea that the maternal role is natural and transfer the responsibility for reproduction from individual women to society.

She states that the oppression of women:

derives from their traditional reproductive role and that the introduction of paid maternity leave should be introduced as a means to transform this traditional role.

... Feminists have long recognised that the traditional view of women's role in society is an oppressive one. Shulasmith Firestone's declaration that "the heart of women's oppression is her childbearing and childrearing roles" expresses a commonly held view amongst women's liberationist advocates.

... From this theory of women's oppression it would seem that the solution would be to move reproductive labour into the public realm. However, the problem with unequal relations between men and women is that they are considered 'natural' and therefore inevitable ... Traditionally, the responsibilities of reproduction were seen to belong to women due to their 'distinct nature'. This nature, including such qualities as the 'maternal instinct' and the tendency to nurture, meant women were biologically suited for reproductive labour.

However, feminists have disputed the traditional view, arguing it is a cultural construct ... In The Second Sex, Beauvoir questions the notion that women have a 'maternal instinct'. In reality there is no such thing, she argues ... (pp.3-5)

Here then is one possible reason why societies which adopt paid maternity schemes don't have higher birth rates than other comparable countries like America or Australia. The philosophy behind these schemes is explicitly anti-maternal. If you believe that motherhood is oppressive to women, and that there is no natural maternal instinct or drive, and that the primary focus of women's lives should be their professional careers, then there is unlikely to be a high level commitment to reproduction by women.


  1. Liberals(feminists, socialists, atheists) tend to have lower birth rates than conservatives. This trend has been clear in the US where : Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility (just as he did in 2000), and 25 out of the top 26,...In sharp contrast, Kerry won the 16 states at the bottom of the list

    This also coincides with marriage rates in conservative and liberal states

    Moreover, the American population is boosted by immigration - both legal and illegal. And education relates inversely with birth rates, immigrants usually have higher birth rates.


    What this means is that a lot of factors affect fertility rates and paid leave will not cause more people to have children.

    A 3-9 month paid maternity leave will increase the burden on the tax-payers. Agreed, but raising children is a long-term and full-time job. The next demand will be for free daycare and schooling - parenthood will be outsourced to the State. More socialism...

    Instead, they could focus on a pro-marriage and pro-family policy.

    There is no evidence of a connection between high fertility rates and maternity leave.

  2. Mikeray, thanks. It's interesting that Peter Costello is also aware that paid leave doesn't improve fertility rates.

    If we did adopt paid maternity leave (and Labor will probably introduce it), what will happen next?

    The next step will be to increase the leave from 14 weeks to a year.

    After this there will be demands (as in Scandinavia) that men take an increasing share of the leave. This is part of the drive to detach women from the motherhood role, which feminists see as being inferior.

    Because men don't generally take up paid leave, even when it's offered to them, the Scandinavian governments have tried to find forms of "gentle coercion" (as a Norwegian minister put it) to get them to do so.

    The general aim appears to be to get women to take the first six months and men the second six months of paid leave. After that, the child is to remain in government subsidised child care.

  3. Could someone please explain to me why feminists insist on peddling self-destructive ideology? Don't they realise how important motherhood is?

    It's no wonder Gen X women I meet -either right or left - are confused about their loyalty to the sisterhood when they stop climbing the fulltime executive career ladder because they have fallen in love with their own children.

    Hetero-hating anti-childrearing women are surely only speaking for their own kind, but in the meantime they're making their contemporaries who have discovered they enjoy motherhood feel like second class citizens.


  4. Hetero-hating anti-childrearing women are surely only speaking for their own kind, but in the meantime they're making their contemporaries who have discovered they enjoy motherhood feel like second class citizens.

    Which is why some of us have stopped listening to them.

  5. Yes we can afford to pay maternity leave and we can also afford to pay those women who wish to remain at home as full-time mothers to do so. All we need do is reorganize our spending. We spend in excess of AUD$7.2 billion each year on multiculturalism. So should we, a) pay various groups to ponce about in their national costume on their national day, or b) should we fund family matters and those who wish to boost our country’s fertility rate?

    I don’t wish to downplay Dia de la Hispanidad and its importance in Spain nor am I saying that September 2 is not important in Vietnam. I am saying our government should approach family issues with the same avidity shown towards multiculturalism.

  6. I love that "traditional reproductive role" business. As if the only reason it's women rather than men who bear and nurse children is that we've always done it that way!

  7. I just hope the 'feral abacus' in the Coalition doesn't get fooled by this and initiate a policy aimed at getting some centrist votes at the next Federal election. It seems likely. I recall reading in a broadsheet within the last two weeks, that the PM and the Attorney General have met with 'gay' groups to discuss superannuation entitlements between 'gay' couples.

  8. "If we did adopt paid maternity leave (and Labor will probably introduce it), what will happen next?"

    Mark you are spot on here. If/when Labor wins power, they will introduce this. In face, we will see a wholesale shift to the left socially. Not only in Australia, but in the US with the democrats and possibly even in the UK with David Cameron.

    Guy Rundle argued some time ago that John Howard was not making Australia conservative - rather he was holding back a tide of social liberalism.

    I cannot help but agree. We will see a massive shift to the left as leftoid halfwits make up for lost time.

    This in fact highlights a key failure of conservative governments - they do not 'roll back' changes, they usually just preserve the status quo.

  9. GG is right on this one.

    Sadly, if you want to vote for a conservative party that will actually 'roll back' leftism, you have to give your support to movements like:

    (a) British National Party (UK) [Web Page] [Wikipedia entry]
    (b) One Nation (Aust) etc [Web Page] [Wikipedia entry]
    (c) whatever party Pat Buchanan happens to be in in the US. [Web Page] [Wikipedia entry]

    It's only the nutter or 'paleo-con' parties that seem to be willing to 'roll back' anything.

    Sad but true.

    Personally, I have always encouraged traditionalists to join mainline rightist parties such as the Liberal-Nationals (Aust), The Torys (UK) or the Republicans (US), and try to effect the policy platforms there (those minor parties will achieve nothing as they will never be in government, and ultimately become an embarrassment).

  10. GG has highlighted an important problem with the mainstream right.

    I'm not sure the answer, though, right now is to join these parties.

    I don't think you can expect to have any significant influence until you have won over a section of the political class.

    It's a fault of our side of politics that we haven't attempted to do this seriously.

    So the first step, as unglamorous as it is, is to patiently criticise the liberal orthodoxy and to argue for a more traditionalist alternative.

  11. I must respectfully disagree,

    There's no point arguing for traditionalist ideas and trying to win over a section of the political class when nobody is listening to you in the first place.

    Look at the fabianist left. They have always been pro-homosexual and I suspect their inner core has the legalisation of paedophilia on its secret agenda too, yet they didn't argue for this or win over anybody, they did it under the radar, surreptitiously, by stacking out academia, the media, mainstream parties etc. Point in fact: today, both the Liberal-Nationals and Labor have a 'gay' lobby.

    Moreover: an overwhelming majority of the public responses to the legalisation of RU486 were to the negative, yet the fabianists within both dominant political parties comfortably passed it while also making it into a woman's issue (i.e. the right to chose etc).

    We have to start adopting their methods, or we will be destined to be a debating society til the day when our traditionalism becomes as arcane as the flat Earthers of yore.

  12. Kilroy, the Fabians were able to swim in the sea of left-liberalism that was advancing in the early 1900s. Our task is more challenging.

  13. True,

    But we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    I've never understood why Traditionalists keep ceding ground in the party political sphere.