CANBERRA – The Australian Greens are ramping up pressure on the government over paid parental leave and pension entitlements, issues that have been cited as reasons for women’s’ lagging workforce participation.

The minor party, which holds the balance of power in the Senate, will introduce a bill in Parliament next week that proposes boosting government-funded paid parental leave to 26 weeks from 18 weeks.

Salaries would be matched up to A$100,000 (S$94,000) per annum.

“Australia has one of the weakest parental leave schemes in the developed world, especially for fathers,” Greens Senator Larissa Waters said in a statement Monday.

“We know from the experience in other countries that more equitable parental leave, coupled with free childcare, has a significant impact on women’s workforce participation.”

The proposal would cost A$6.4 billion over the forward estimates, according to an emailed statement from the Greens.

Just over 62 per cent of women took part in Australia’s workforce in August, compared with 71 per cent of men, according to latest data.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese earlier this month said the government would “have a look” at paid parental leave.

The bill also proposes that pensions are paid on top of the leave entitlement to partially address the gender gap in retirement balances, as well as incentives for parents to share care of children.

“If the government is serious about increasing women’s workforce participation, it needs to do more than to nod sagely while a panel of expert women says these things,” Senator Waters said.