The 2020 Federal Budget was big on supporting the high vis and hard hats in the construction, energy and manufacturing sectors and not so big on supporting the services sector which has been the biggest loser from the COVID fallout.
As widely reported, more women have lost their jobs than men in COVID – as hospitality, the arts and administrative services have been hardest hit and are the largest employers of women (many employed casually). Services create more jobs than infrastructure per dollar spent, so it is interesting the Government chose to go for recovery in the traditional areas, two of which have not been overly impacted by COVID and one of which – construction – has a very poor track record for employment of women.
The $240M for women in the budget was for:
- Cadetships/apprenticeships for women in STEM,
- Job creation and entrepreneurialism, and
- Women’s safety at work and at home.'
Investment in Social Housing Infrastructure & Childcare
WOB contends that investment in affordable social housing infrastructure and job creation in the services sector would have produced a better long-term outcome for women – and the wellbeing of the nation.
Making child-care more affordable is also a game changer and one of the most effective ways to reduce the gender pay gap in working life and retirement savings. The ALP has put a modest proposal on the table, following the recommendations of The Grattan Institute. WOB supports these initiatives, however as in all cases with a government subsidised service, you need to be very careful when it comes to the detail. Any reform of childcare needs careful planning to avoid private sector price hiking and gouging as occurred in the VET training sector. More subsidies without proper regulation can lead to increased childcare fees, more profits in the pockets of the less scrupulous owners and no wage rises for staff.
The other issue in the Budget that will concern older people (including many vulnerable single women) is the subsidy for young workers – will they lose their jobs as business seeks to replace them with cheaper, subsidised labour? Perhaps an unintended consequence, but a very real threat for many.
Independent Gendered Review
As many women are clearly upset at the blokey focus of the budget, Women on Boards has sponsored an independent gendered review by the highly credible National Foundation for Australian Women, to be released on 19th October 2020. This will form the basis of our advocacy to the Federal Government and the Opposition on issues such as childcare, affordable housing and the unequal impact of COVID on women.
We will also be calling for the immediate return of the Women ‘s Budget Statement, axed under Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2014.
Why? Because the impacts of public expenditure, revenue raising, and deficit reduction strategies are not gender neutral. Government expenditure and taxes don’t impact equally because men and women occupy different economic and social positions. Women tend to be in an unequal position in society with less economic, social and political power. Women also do the bulk of care giving.
The NFAW stepped into the breach in 2016 – 2017, with its committee of well credentialled volunteers providing a gendered analysis of the budget every year since. But this is always after the fact – surely Government needs to assess the impact on women while it is putting the budget together? While they are at it, how about a few more female voices on the powerful Expenditure Review Committee?
Claire Braund talks to CCN about 2020 the Federal Budget