Families Want Long Term Security
“Like generations of parents before them, parents today want to give their children more than they had,” Senator Vanstone said today. For people who grew up under rampant competitive consumerism this is no easy task.
Clearly, families want to have more in a material sense. Houses have more rooms, households have more cars, but families are smaller.
Families also want to provide more security, for both themselves and their children. This desire partly explains why women are using their education and starting a career before they start a family. It also helps explain why they are keen to maintain a workforce attachment and resume their careers.
By choosing to have fewer children, families may feel more secure in themselves and more confident about being able to provide a secure and comfortable life for their children.
We need to recognise these changes and understand they are going to continue.
It would be a mistake to believe that any one single policy initiative could dramatically ease the pressure on families. In fact, it is clear that government spending on families does not have a strong direct relationship to fertility.
All governments, however, should be looking to see how they can assist families with children.
The Howard government has already made dramatic changes to assist families. We shifted the tax system to favour families. We have dramatically increased the spending on childcare, in real terms, and provided an even more dramatic increase in the number of places.
State and local governments also have a role to play. Each level of government must look at what it can do to make life easier for families with children.
Clearly, businesses that want to attract and retain the best and brightest staff will also become more family-friendly.