How does the 2022 Federal Budget impact women?

26/10/2022

Gender inequality is “holding Australia back” was one of the key messages from Treasurer Jim Chalmers as he delivered the Federal Budget on Tuesday. So what exactly was promised in this “family-friendly” budget and how will these measures help ease the growing uncertainty and financial burden for women?

 

On Tuesday the Treasurer and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese issued a detailed statement outlining the government's plans for key areas including women's safety, childcare education and the gender pay gap. 

“Gender inequality is holding Australia back,” it said.  In 2022, Australia was ranked 43rd of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index. Our national level indicators highlight persistent gaps between women and men, including a gender pay gap of 14.1 per cent.

“Women in Australia continue to shoulder the majority of unpaid work and caring responsibilities and are more likely to be in part-time, casual or low-paid work as they try to balance work and family. Gender inequality is also a key factor underpinning gender-based violence. Until there is true gender equality, we cannot reach our full potential and be the Australia we want to be.”

No surprise then that the Budget included measures around providing cheaper childcare for 96 per cent of Australian families, what’s been described as “the biggest expansion to paid parental leave” since the system was introduced, 1.7bn to improve women’s safety policies and gender responsive budgeting to ensure that the gender impact of decisions remains central to parliamentary decision-making process.

´╗┐Women on Boards Executive Director Claire Braund commended the Government for seeking to embed an analysis of the gender implications of all policies throughout the budget and said government economic and social policy impacted men and women unequally and often produced unintended consequences.

"Looking at policies, in particular budgetary policy, through a gendered lens before making decisions is a very important step that has been long called for, but mostly overlooked. "

Minister for Finance and Women Katy Gallagher said the entrenched problems of gender equality and violence against women are an important consideration in the budget. "Clearly something has to change, and this budget statement makes the first step," she said. 

You can read the Women’s Budget Statement - which looks at the three interconnected themess of women's economic equality, ending violence against women, and gender equality, health and wellbeing HERE.

Key budget takeaways for women and families

The gender pay gap 

  • $20.2 million to establish two new Expert Panels on Pay Equity and the Care and Community Sector in the Fair Work Commission. This will strengthen the Fair Work Commission’s capacity to hear and determine applications from female-dominated industries whose work is often undervalued and under-paid.
  • Reform the workplace relations system to make gender equity an objective of the Fair Work Act 2009 and legislate a statutory equal remuneration principle.

Early childhood care and parental leave 

  • $531.6 million investment to expand the Paid Parental Leave scheme up to 26 weeks by July 2026 – the biggest boost to Australia’s Paid Parental Leave scheme since it was created in 2011. 
  • Paid parental leave will be expanded by six weeks through to 2026-27, with two more weeks being added in each financial year - from 20 in 2023-24 to 26 in 2023-27.
  • Both parents will be able to share the leave, and from July 2023, they can even split it day-by-day.
  • The initiative is aimed at enabling parents to spend more time with their children and share caring responsibilities more equally.
  • Invest $4.7 billion over four years to make it easier and cheaper for parents to access early childhood education and care. 
  • Provide families with First Nations children access to a minimum level entitlement of 36 hours per fortnight of subsidised early childhood education and care from July 2023. This will provide a strong foundation for First Nation’s children.

Women's safety

To support the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-32 the government has committed an investment of over $1.7 billion in funding for women’s safety iniatives, including:

  • 500 frontline community sector workers to increase support for women and children in crisis
  • full implementation of the recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission's Respect@Work report
  • funding for respectful relationships education
  • legislating to provide 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave
  • $100 million for crisis and transitional housing options for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness.

Women’s Health and Wellbeing

  • $26.2 million funding 12 new perinatal mental health centres across Australia. This will help around 2,880 expectant and new parents to access to the mental health support they need each year.
  • $5.9 million towards expanding the pregnancy and postnatal guidelines for expectant parents, including target consultation and guidance for culturally and linguistically diverse and First Nations people. A further $13.9 million will be provided to increase the number of autopsies and investigations undertaken after a stillbirth.
  • $22.5 million over 3 years from 2022–23 to build a dedicated Birthing on Country Centre of Excellence at Waminda, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service in Nowra, NSW. 

FURTHER READING

Claire Braund's comment HERE

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Governance Institute: Your Governance and Risk Guide to the Budget
In this special report The Governance Institute Australia puts the budget under the microscope, outlining what you need to know about the major governance and risk management announcements.

BDO’s analysis of the 2022 Federal Budget 
It is pitched as a family focused budget that leans on the ‘Aussie way’ of supporting each other through the hard times by being resilient in the face of uncertainty. In Labor’s first budget in almost a decade, Treasurer Jim Chalmers outlined his five point plan to ease the cost of living – cheaper childcare, paid parental leave, cheaper medicine, housing affordability and wage growth. In doing so, he reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to economic restraint and the caring economy. The question is whether the sentiment of restraint has led to a budget that is more about resetting the agenda than taking the bold steps needed to act now on genuine tax reform that could deliver long term gain. Read BDO’s Budget Report HERE

 

The women's budget is headed in the right direction. But the policies still need work
The inclusion of an evidence-based women’s budget statement shows a greater awareness of the systemic challenges to women’s economic security, writes Professor Helen Hodgson, Curtin Law School and Business School, Curtin University. 

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