When Treasurer Frydenberg rose to present the Federal Government budget one week ago women collectively held their breath around Australia. The majority of workers who lost jobs during COVID-19 have been women and young people. That is a proven fact.
A lot of hope was raised by various community leaders and others that women and young people would be the group to benefit most in this 2020 budget.
Early in the budget speech Frydenberg proudly introduced the Women’s Economic Security Statement and we all sat up and listened. At Last! This male-dominated cabinet of black-suited men was listening to women’s voices…and then the amount of money set aside to support this mighty-sounding title was announced…all of $240 million dollars.
Let me list what this amount of money was meant to support:
- Increasing women’s workface participation
- Closing the gender pay gap
- Getting more women in STEM positions (related to science, technology, engineering, and maths)
- Lifting the numbers of women in construction, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
The money also had to stretch to include ‘Making women safe at home and at work’ (16% of women are affected by domestic violence in Australia).
This is no more than a tokenistic gesture, an insult, a fantasy this government wishes to weave for women. This amounts to $40 per working woman if there are 6 million women in the workforce.
Clearly there are workers benefitting with this budget…. in the main they are just not women. Individual tax cuts will benefit all Australians and tax write-offs and tax breaks are helpful to business. The more concerning areas are the cut-off at aged 35 for JobMaker, an age when women are seriously looking to return to the workforce after being the main carers of young children. Childcare is not on the agenda at all, and essential if the workforce wants to welcome women back into the fold.
Apprenticeships, a male-dominated industry where 70% of apprentices are male, are the clear winners, with $1.2 billion in subsidies.
Women deserve much better than this. Australia should be much better than this. Women’s voices are now being heard loudly and clearly by the government, but I suspect government is not listening. They seem not to comprehend that women’s issues are everybody’s issues, not just for women. Government decisions affect whole families and ultimately the whole community.
The Grattan Institute’s ‘Towards 2025’ report states that lifting the workforce participation of women would improve the Australian economy by more than $25 billion. ‘That is serious money which requires serious investment, and serious action’ (Gopal 2020).
Until the Federal Government pays more than lip service to the gender imbalances around investment of women in the work place, until it supports serious investment in training and education to support women in the workplace, and free childcare, we can reasonably assume that the government does not take gender equality in the workplace seriously.
Ref: Shivani Gopal, CEO of The Remarkable Woman.
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