Babies or bust?

Are we heading back to the 1950s idea of a working mum?

When women have equal access to paid work we know the economy grows, productivity increases and it boosts GDP. Economic equality is good for business, brings diversity in to the workplace which creates growth and increases performance.

It’s not rocket science, in fact it is something many studies have proven time and time again.

When women are left to just child rearing, not only are their opportunities limited but so are our economies.

Despite this our Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the National Press Club last week;

“So I won’t go as far as to say, like Peter Costello, ‘one for the mother, one for the father and one for the country’, but I can say that people should feel encouraged about the future and the more children that we have across the country, together with our migration, we will build our population growth and that will be good for the economy.”

“I think the best thing we can do to encourage more children being born across the country is obviously to create a strong economy for them to be born into.”

But as Kristine Ziwica wrote in Women’s Agenda;

“You can’t take away “free” childcare, discourage women from working more hours through tax policy, ignore the scourge of pregnancy discrimination that affects 1 in 2 women, and generally pursue a “bloke-covery” that disadvantages women and assume that they will be all too happy to return to hearth and home and start breeding.

It’s illogical and reveals a complete lack of understanding of the social and economic landscape in which women — and their partners – make their “choices”.”

Women have come out worse off from COVID-19 than men. As Angela Priestley also notes in Women’s Agenda;

“We’ve written extensively about how this recession is different to other recessions in that women are being hit harder than men, losing jobs and hours at a higher rate, while also facing an increase in unpaid work. We’ve also noted how male-dominated industries are being favoured for targeted support measures over those that employ more women, and have continued to raise concerns about the crisis facing the childcare sector.

We’ve called it a She-cession and a Mum-cession, given the added impact on women with children — and that was well before Victoria’s second lockdown period, that will again see women take on the bulk of the remote learning with some seeing no other option but to step back from their paid work to cope with added responsibilities at home.”

I’ve seen many conspiracy theories come and go over the past few months and now I have a new one to ponder. This government has used COVID-19 to push women out of the workforce, send them back to the child-rearing home and set any progress over gender equality back decades.

Our first – and only – female Prime Minister Julia Gillard told The Adelaide Review;

“… the dynamic process of change means you both need women ‘in the room’, and women outside those structures campaigning for change. You make the most space for change if those two things are happening at the same time.”

Ten years after her famous ‘Mysogyny Speech’ she knows that not much has changed.

“…the speech wouldn’t still be resonating with young women unless in their day-to-day engagements with the world they didn’t feel the need to sometimes pump themselves up for the struggle.”

The Coalition’s treatment of Julie Bishop sits as testimony to how this Government perceives women in power and now as we try and find our way out of COVID-19 women in the workforce.

Sending us back to the home to pump out babies to save the economy is short sighted, misogynistic and downright insulting. Turning a blind eye to the benefits of getting women back to work, giving them affordable childcare and contributing to our economy’s rebuild is going to send us further back than where we were before all this started.