This article was originally published in The Spectator Australia on or about 13 November 2023 and was written by the author in their capacity as a contributor for that publication.
It has been republished on the IPA website with permission. The views expressed are those of the author alone.
Despite a rapidly declining birth rate across the Western world, new research out of the United States shows many people want more children than they are having. The study published by Ohio State University’s Institute for Population Research suggests demographic decline could be reversed if people simply had the children they claim to want.
Yet birth rates in countries like Australia continue to fall. The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the birth rate has fallen three per cent since 2021 and the total fertility rate has dropped to 1.63 children per woman.
The reasons for this are both socio-political and financial. They are proof that we live in a society that increasingly does not value motherhood, children, or family.
Last week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made this abundantly clear during a recent keynote address to The Australian’s Economic and Social Outlook conference.
‘We’ve narrowed the gender pay gap to its lowest point on record– and we’re not done yet,’ he said. ‘That’s why we have made equality for women a central economic priority – because it is central to our future economic success.’
Increasingly the political class measure a woman’s success by her contribution to the national economy. This feeds into the narrative that success should be viewed through a commercial lens and that employment is empowerment.
Mr Albanese continued, ‘Making child-care more accessible and affordable is an economic reform that boosts productivity and participation for working women in particular.’ He added, ‘It has also delivered real and immediate help for around 1.2 million family budgets.’
What the Prime Minister pointedly failed to admit is this policy only helps mothers who want to return to the workforce, not the stay-at-home mum. Today’s policies around childcare, while pushed in the name of female empowerment, have everything to do with economic interests and very little to do with giving women a choice.
This is further exacerbated by an economic climate that is not family-friendly. According to the ABS, the average annual income for a man in Australia is about $90,000. However, with inflation at 5.4 per cent and interest rates recently increased to 4.35 per cent, the average salary does not stretch as far as it used to.
Confronted with rising rental and housing prices, many women are forced to return to work sooner than they would have liked. Cost-of-living has killed the stay-at-home mum, and for many women, the choice between returning to work or devoting more time to caring responsibilities has been made for them.
Today, women’s workforce participation in Australia is at 62.2 per cent. However, according to the latest Gallup poll, 50 per cent of women with children under 18 would prefer to stay at home.
Women are being sold a lie. It suits the interests of the political class to support the perception that wealth, career, and lifestyle are the key markers of success. It certainly suits the budget bottom line. The Prime Minister acknowledges this when he says that women’s productivity is ‘essential to boosting productivity’.
When you hear motherhood described as ‘unpaid caring’ and a ‘penalty’, replace those words with ‘unpaid taxes’ and a ‘penalty on the national GDP’. These politically opportunistic catchphrases have nothing to do with empowerment but are rather about encouraging women to make a rapid return to work.
Under the guise of supporting women, the Prime Minister in fact does a disservice to all women by making the ‘gender pay gap’ a top priority for his government.
Moreover, this type of rhetoric fuels the grievance industry by promoting the idea that the patriarchy is preventing women from succeeding in the workforce.
Our elected representatives should be focusing on much more pressing issues, such as improving the national economy by cutting taxes, income splitting, and making housing more affordable, thereby enabling families to survive on a single income.
The 3 per cent fall in the birth rate since 2021 speaks to a society that has forgotten the value of family and the stay-at-home mum.
While feminism has achieved huge wins for women, we must not be deceived by anti-motherhood and anti-family rhetoric. True liberation is about choice, not employment.
This article was originally published in The Spectator Australia on or about 13 November 2023 and was written by the author in their capacity as a contributor for that publication. The views expressed are those of the author alone.