Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Ministers statements: early childhood education

Ministers statements: early childhood education

Ms WILLIAMS (Dandenong—Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, Minister for Women, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (14:24): You would be surprised to learn that today I rise to update the house on the Andrews Labor government’s commitment to improving outcomes for Victorian women through our landmark early childhood reform. When it comes to achieving gender equality, we know almost all roads lead to childcare reform. For too long, unaffordable and inaccessible child care has held women back. That is a fact. Our career, our share of the care, our income, our superannuation, indeed our identity have been shaped by a childcare system that is rooted in inequality.

The current system disproportionately keeps women at home and men at work, and this has lifelong consequences. There are almost 27 000 women in Victoria today who are not participating in the workforce at all due to childcare requirements. Many more will be forced to work fewer hours than they would like. This time out of work stalls career progression, and this drives the gender pay gap, the representation and leadership gap, and the superannuation gap. This sees woman over-represented in low-paid and insecure work, more likely to be unemployed and twice as likely to be underemployed. It sees women do twice the unpaid care at home and retire with about half the superannuation. This is a system that fundamentally does not work for women, and it does not work for women who want to work.

Under the Andrews Labor government, though, this is all about to change—free kinder, universal pre-prep, 50 brand new government-run childcare centres. This will give every parent a legitimate choice about who returns to work and when, not one forced by the limitations of our early childhood system. This will progress gender equality in homes and in workplaces. It will drive up women’s workforce participation, allow career progression and in doing so address the leadership gap. It will address the retirement poverty that too many women experience, and it will meaningfully operate to close the gender pay gap. This is structural reform in action. It is good for the economy. It is good for kids. It is good for women. It is good for equality. It is game changing. The fact is when women get the opportunity to achieve, our whole community and our economy benefits.