• CANBERRA, AAP – Big business wants Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to make it easier for women to get back into work by fixing both the nation’s broken child care and paid parental leave systems in next month’s budget.

    Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott argues that with Australia’s population growing at its lowest rate since World War I it is critical female participation is lifted to the make the most of homegrown talent.

    “A women’s budget is not just about fixing the cultural problems we’ve seen writ large across society, it’s also an economic imperative,” Ms Westacott said in a statement on Monday.

    She said the Productivity Commission found more than 90,000 people across Australia were not in the workforce last year, mainly because of the high cost of child care.

    “Our child care and paid parental leave systems are a barrier to women who want to get back into work and they don’t work for modern families,” Ms Westacott said.

    She said these systems should not discourage people from picking up extra hours or realising their full potential.

    “For every dollar we invest in child care, we’ll get $2 back,” she said.

    “KPMG estimates that the cost of our child care plan would be around $2.5 billion but it would deliver a boost to the economy of around $4 to $5 billion.”

    On paid parental leave, the council is proposing a more flexible system that would encourage both parents to take more equal caring responsibilities and get the ball rolling on cultural change.

    “The current system encourages one parent, almost always mum, to take the lion’s share of time away from work,” she said.

    “Under our scheme, families would get to choose how they divide their leave based on what works best for them.”

    The council estimates the cost of transforming the paid parental leave system would be around $1 billion a year.

    The treasurer will hand down the budget on May 11.

    BUSINESS COUNCIL CHILD CARE, PARENTAL LEAVE PROPOSALS:

    Child Care:

    * The childcare subsidy would grow from 85 per cent to 95 per cent for lower income households

    * Starting for families earning $80,000 the subsidy would taper off at one percentage point for every $4000 in additional family income

    * For example, a family earning $80,000 would receive a 95 per cent subsidy, and a family earning $84,000 would receive a 94 per cent subsidy

    Paid Parental Leave:

    * Parents currently get 20 weeks of paid leave from the government divided between the primary carer, almost always mum, who gets 18 weeks and a secondary carer who gets two weeks

    * Under the BCA’s proposal, families would decide how many weeks each parent takes up to a maximum of 18 for one parent

    * Those who share more evenly would be rewarded with an additional one or two weeks each of funded leave

    * Total weeks available would grow to 26 weeks through a gradual process over the next eight years.