Cook Islands Party says it will develop affordable childcare

Cook Islands Party spokesperson for Gender and Social Development Albert Nicholas. Picture: RNZ

RAROTONGA, 16 MAY 2018 (COOK ISLANDS NEWS) – If it is returned to government in the June 14 election, the Cook Islands Party will look into “the unexplored frontier” of paid work being a right for women who currently do countless hours of unpaid work looking after children, those with special needs, and the elderly.

“We will work with our non-government organisations working in this area to help us develop a Cook Islands model and system of affordable, accessible and quality childcare,” said party spokesperson for Gender and Social Development, Albert Nicholas.

“We will relook at our maternity allowance in relation to paid parental leave possibilities.”

Nicholas said the CIP recognised everyone in the workforce was important to the growth and workings of the country’s private, public and community sectors.

His comments were backed by CIP policy director Vaine Wichman, who said the government had implemented policies that had made early childhood education more accessible, with support from the Ministry of Education to fill teaching and teacher aide positions with qualified and competent young women and men.

“But we must do more. Our commitment to the global agreement to attain gender equality in work and governing is below average at the moment,” she said.

“Globally we know that three of every four hours of unpaid work are done by women (United Nation’s CEDAW). This pressure increases as the aging population increases.

“The recent census shows a moderate increase in the number of elderly staying back in the Cook Islands.

“It is great to see that the work the current government has done in this area is paying off in terms of returned retirees living permanently on the island because they can now collect their overseas superannuation and pensions here.

“But the pressure of looking after them will fall on our women, or who they decide or hire to perform this important task for our elderly population. It is women who do most of the unpaid elder care work, alongside looking after their children.”

Nicholas said his government would work with community groups and leading non-government organisations to help Cook Islands women stay in the paid workforce, by lifting the country’s social services so the burden of having to undertake unpaid care work would be eliminated.

“Young working women of the Cook Islands, this is your time, your legacy. Let’s make it happen,” Nicholas said.

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