politics

The real losers of this year's Federal Budget? Women.

If there was ever a Federal Budget that should have put women and our economic security at its centre, it was this one.

We know that women have been the hardest hit by Australia's coronavirus job losses. We know a growing number of women aged 55 and over are experiencing homelessness. We know domestic violence, which disproportionally affects women, has increased significantly during the pandemic.

But behind the big package promises and talk of economic growth, tax cuts, and a fancy new stimulus package aptly named JobMaker, Tuesday night's budget left many women scratching their heads.

Here's the Treasurer talking about funding for women. Post continues after video. 


Video via SBS.

As has now been calculated, just 0.038 per cent of the 2020 Federal Budget was focused on women - who comprise slightly more than half the population and who have borne the brunt of the adverse financial and social implications of COVID-19.

There were other losers as well of course; Indigenous health, universities, and refugees.

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But in terms of how women fared, allow us to break it down for you:

Women in the workplace. 

On Tuesday night, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spoke about the government's determination to get women's workplace participation back to healthy pre-COVID levels, conceding that women had unfortunately made up the bulk of the jobs losses during this pandemic.

He then offered $240 million to make that happen.

While it sounds like a pretty impressive figure, broken down, that $240 million is supposed to cover job creation, new cadetships for women in STEM, choice and flexibility for families, and women's safety at work and at home. 

As journalist Van Badham calculated, that boils down to about $40 per working woman if you take into consideration there are 5,983,900 women in the Australian workforce.

On top of that, women over the age of 45 were the most likely to be on JobSeeker before COVID-19, and yet the budget doesn't offer them the same support via the newly announced JobMaker scheme which aims to make younger workers more desirable to employers.

So, middle-aged women who were already the most vulnerable demographic in the workplace, are now facing yet another reason why workplaces will likely prioritise a younger worker over them: a $200 incentive.

Childcare.

While of course this isn't just an issue facing women, unfortunately it is still mainly falling on women

It was the first sector to lose JobKeeper in July, and yet the budget provided no new initiatives for childcare except for its commitment to a still locked down Victoria, whose providers will share in $314.2 million. 

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But for the rest of the country? None. Zero. Zilch.

The only money set aside is $708 million that's being used to support providers as they transition back to the Child Care Subsidy model and away from the free childcare package that was implemented during the height of the pandemic. While that is money, it's merely money designed to wean Australian families off the temporary support.

While households with two working parents on low and middle incomes will pay up to $5,490 less in tax under the new budget, and the federal government changed the work test period for Paid Parental Leave (PPL), to help 9000 mothers who would otherwise miss out, it's simply not enough.

A Grattan Institute report found that a $5 billion investment in childcare would boost GDP by $11 billion a year.

"We know that the most effective policy that we can invest in to increase women's workforce participation, but also improve outcomes for children, and generate employment in a sector that's dominated by women - is investing in early learning infrastructure... that's absolutely critical. If you're serious about increasing women's workforce participation that's where you'd put your money," childcare advocate and The Parenthood director Georgina Dent told the Today Show this morning.

"It's astonishing that in a budget of this size and scale there's absolutely nothing," she added.

We are spending marginally more money on childcare subsidies this year which is a definite plus - but that's due to CPI increases and population growth - not new policy or money. 

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By not spending more on childcare, the government has basically undermined their "Women's Economic Security Package" cash, because we already know expensive childcare creates a disincentive for women to return to work.

Domestic Violence.

Another area that received no new money in last night's 'record spending' budget was domestic violence.

The government did recently announce $150 million in response to the pandemic, but more was promised. 

"The government invited experts to brief them on what’s required to improve women’s freedom from domestic and family violence - and they appear to have completely disregarded our advice,” said CEO of Women’s Safety NSW Hayley Foster in a statement to Mamamia.

"During this time - when being safe at home is more important than ever, and when the pandemic and recession are compounding the domestic violence crisis - it’s shocking that the Morrison Government has decided not to properly resource the services victim-survivors rely on to be safe," added Renee Carr, Executive Director of community campaigning group Fair Agenda. 

Devastatingly, with this announcement, the National Forum for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services - a key service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander DV survivors - doesn't have any funding certainty beyond December.

A $5.7 billion spend on mental health which will include the doubling of support from 10 to 20 Medicare-funded psychological services, could be considered under this subhead as spending that will help vulnerable women. But that money is helping only after a woman has suffered at the hands of a perpetrator. 

Where is the funding support to get women out of dangerous domestic violence situations in the first place?

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In 2020 we've already lost 37 women to violence, according to Destroy The Joint, and we know one in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner since the age of 15. Those figures aren't going away, in fact, thanks to coronavirus lockdowns they're increasing. 

What are people saying?

Here's just a taste of the heartbreak, anger and disbelief about the lack of funding for women announced last night, in what we're being told is the "most significant" budget since WWII.

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In terms of tax cuts, manufacturing, and infrastructure, sure, the budget was impressively significant. 

But to put overall spending on women into perspective, consider this: This budget is spending more on recycled rubbish than it is on women.

Feature image: Getty.

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