Gender lens on the budget

Gender lens on the budget

WOB supports the independent review of the Federal Budget completed each year by the National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) and its 36 subject matter experts. This non-partisan analysis of the Federal Budget makes recommendations across a range of policy areas – workplace relations, health, education, housing, domestic violence, taxation, superannuation and more, as well as some related to machinery of government and data collection. In 2020, the work has taken a critical look at the impact of COVID and how economic stimulus is unevenly distributed when it comes to gender.

Gender-based analysis defines the ways in which public policies affect women and men differently. It does so through the systematic use of data to better tailor the development of government programs. Women on Boards proudly supports the analysis provided each year by the National Foundation for Australian Women.

2020-2021 Gender Lens on the Budget Report

artoon ©Judy Horacek, reprinted with permission,

This year’s COVID-19 Budget is different in many ways, not least in that as the pandemic progresses, the government has shown its willingness to respond quickly as the impact of interventions plays out. This professional analysis provides a recovery plan based on the disproportionate negative impact of COVID-19 on women.

Overall our experts believe the budget is a lost opportunity to maximise employment growth, to invest in social infrastructure with the greatest multiplier effects and to address the structural problems in female dominated areas that COVID-19 has exposed.

The infrastructure and tax cut measures reflect the government’s long-standing commitment to traditional, historical responses to economic downturns that have overlooked the pandemic’s very different impacts.

The phrases “pink-collar recession” and “she-session” have entered the lexicon. Economists, welfare groups and businesses agree about the negative impact on women. Prior to the budget many had pressed the government to use stimulus spending that particularly addresses investment in social housing, support for the caring professions, child care, aged care and disability care, as well as those female-dominated sectors also hard hit in the wake of COVID-19. This is not just because of the loss of employment but also because COVID-19 exposed the opportunity to reform a number of systemic issues and would likely provide the relatively greater increase in employment.

During COVID-19, the majority of job losses were for women and more women than men left the labour force. The issue of withdrawal from the labour force is critical if the reason is structural rather than cyclical. This is key because increased female participation in the labour force has been vital to economic growth in recent decades. Not all those women who left the labour force have returned in the last few months.

The Women’s Economic Security Statement initiatives, while modest at $231 million over four years, are welcome. But they are overshadowed in the face of a nearly trillion dollar spend. We are particularly concerned that it doesn’t address the critical contribution essential workers made and the stark shortcomings COVID-19 exposed – carers, nurses, cleaners, teachers, early educators, and shop assistants – mostly women who are underpaid, undervalued often with precarious employment conditions. “Services create more jobs than infrastructure per dollar spent, and they have especially high multipliers” (Grattan Institute, 7 October 2020).

COVID-19 has exposed the effect of marketisation/privatisation on the provision of human services such as in aged care, childcare and disability. Profit has too often won out over quality of services.

Independent modelling provided by Janine Dixson of the Centre of Public Studies at Victoria University, provides an alternative scenario whereby government investment in the care sector could lead to an expansionary effect on overall demand and reset the economy at higher levels of activity.

2020-2021 Gender Lens on the Budget Overview

2020-2021 Gender Lens Budget Impact on Women
2020-2021 Simulations of Increased Government Expenditure in the Care Sector


Previous Gender Lens on the Budget Reports





About the Gender Lens on the Budget

ustralia was a pioneer in gendered budget analysis. From 1983 to 2013, the federal government produced a Women’s Budget Statement, while state and territory governments were also among the first in the world to scrutinise annual budgets for their impact on women and girls. This was stopped in 2014 under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. 

According to the highly respected National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW), the statement is critical for gender equity and for meeting our obligations to women and girls around the world. NFAW, the non-profit body from which Women on Boards grew, stepped into the breach to provide a gendered budget analysis since May 2014.