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Expanded paid parental leave hinges on room in budget

The national paid parental leave scheme could be expanded beyond 26 weeks as the government considers ways to close the economic gaps between men and women.

Working parents could be in line for more weeks of paid parental leave as the federal government signals interest in an expanded national scheme, if money can be found to pay for it.

Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said the government would like to lengthen the national paid parental leave scheme for eligible workers taking time off to care for newborns.

The scheme has already been lifted from 20 to 26 weeks in the October budget at the cost of $600 million a year.

"We would all like to continue to improve that scheme, but we've got to find room in the budget to do that as we go," Senator Gallagher told ABC radio on Monday.

A taskforce set up by the government to identify opportunities for women's economic equality recommended gradually boosting the scheme to 52 weeks and recalibrating payments to match lost wages, in a bid to encourage more men to take time off work.

The final report from the Women's Economic Equality Taskforce, led by prominent gender equality advocate Sam Mostyn, laid out a 10-year plan to close Australia's gender-based economic gaps.

It also called for superannuation paid on all forms of paid parental leave, dumping the childcare subsidy activity test, and paying teaching and nursing students for their mandatory placements.

Senator Gallagher said paying super on parental leave was another priority area but would depend on the budget.

Abolishing the activity test, which means parents have to work more hours to receive more childcare support, was also under consideration.

Senator Gallagher, who is also the finance minister, recognised removing barriers to women's economic participation had "a very significant positive impact on the economy" and were not always viewed as a costs.

"When we're looking at making changes that do come with a fiscal cost, we are being responsible about that and finding room within the budget," she said.

"We're incredibly committed to this report and to the 13 women who worked tirelessly on putting this report together, we thank them very much."

The report included seven primary recommendations focused on care, work, education and skills, the tax and transfer system and government processes.

The federal government will release a national strategy to achieve gender equality next year.


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