I watched the budget announcements on Tuesday night. I saw a trail of Men in Black take their seats in Parliament, hardly one woman on the front benches.
The budget as announced by Treasurer Frydenberg was long on jobs, infrastructure, and apprenticeships, and short on anything for women. It became glaringly obvious as the night wore on that this was a Conservative Party’s budget where women are still painfully overlooked in so many critical areas.
This recession triggered by COVID-19 has hit hardest the 51 per cent of the population who are women. Women have lost jobs and hours and income at a faster rate than men, yet they are the essential workers i.e. teachers, nurses, aged-care workers, early educators, cleaners. These are the jobs that have helped us survive through this crisis.
It should be a no-brainer that out of a $500 billion budget there would be policies and initiatives designed to support the capacity of women in the workforce. How much did the government allocate? $240 million…to be spent over five years! It is called the ‘Women’s Economic Security Statement’. This amounts to $40 per female worker or $8 a year until 2025.
The $240 million will barely do more than pay for the committee that will no doubt be set up to expand on the aims of this worthy title, supposedly set up to ‘help women’. The foreword has five areas of focus, but the amount of money allocated to establish these five areas is pure tokenism, and an insult to women.
The foreword states the five areas of focus are:
- Repair and rebuild women’s workforce participation and further close the gender pay gap
- Greater choice and flexibility for families to manage work and care
- Support woman as leaders and positive role models
- Respond to the diverse needs of women
- Support women to be safe at work and home.
All this with $240 million. It is a farce, and an insult to women. It is simply further proof of the government’s wilful ignorance of the importance of women in the workforce. The government is paying lip service to gender equality, while at no stage recognising the importance this has in Australia’s future.
These listed areas identify issues that should be front and centre priorities in this budget, to get this country moving again.
Investing in childcare would increase women’s lifetime earnings on average by $150,000. It would take the financial pressure off families and enable women to return to the workforce, all of which is needed to work our way out of this recession. $240 million amounts to 10 per cent of the funding going to roads, and 2 per cent of infrastructure spending.
The Australia Institute found that offering free childcare and bringing women’s workforce participation up to Sweden’s levels would increase GDP by as much as $140 billion a year.
Funding for family violence which has ‘gone through the roof’ during the pandemic, is not even mentioned, with services already severely over-stretched. Services in this area are turning away over half of the people asking for help.
The need for affordable housing is urgent but there is no mention of support for this in the budget. Women in the over 50s age bracket in Australia are now more likely to be homeless than ever before. That is an appalling reflection on our governments, both state and federal, that families and women in particular are now at risk every day and night of having no safe place to stay. No money is on offer for this area.
This budget fails to deliver for Australian women. This is a shameful reflection of this underwhelming governments’ policies, and its lack of support for the future of women’s economic participation.
Ref: Senator Larissa Water; Angela Priestly – Women Agenda
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