Last week’s Women’s Budget Statement commitment to embed gender responsive budgeting has been welcomed by women’s and health organisations around the country who have called for greater progress towards gender equality.
Labor’s second budget heralds the most significant single year investment in women’s equality in at least 40 years. It followed Labor’s pledge at the election to improve the lives of women as a priority for the nation.
Federal Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said investment would deliver programs and policies for beyond the current term of Parliament and permanently shift the dial on women’s equality.
“We know that we cannot solve the inequity that women face in this country in one Budget or even one term of Parliament, but we can continue to make progress towards this ultimate goal and this Budget does exactly that by removing some long-term barriers faced by women,” Minister Gallagher said.
The Budget includes for a process of assessing the impact of decisions on women through gender impact analysis on key policy proposals.
Measures in the 2023–24 Budget to advance gender equality include reforms to income support payments, the care sector and housing; and initiatives to narrow the gender pay gap, improve women’s health outcomes and end violence against women and girls.
Some of the key initiatives to improve health outcomes for women and girls include increased access to bulk billing services, longer consultations and further funding for continued support for breastfeeding and the breastmilk bank and into the longitudinal study into women’s health.
“At a time when we face a challenging economic outlook as a nation, we welcome a budget that invests in measures to unlock women’s participation, one of the most important levers to increase productivity and drive prosperity for all,” Chief Executive Women (CEW) President Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said.
Gender responsive budgeting will ensure intentional focus on policy impacts on women and sends a powerful signal that gender-balanced decision-making drives strong economic outcomes and enables women to participate fully in the economy, according to the CEW.
Some key investments for women and girls in the 2023-24 Federal Budget include:
- Extension of Single Parent Payment until the youngest child turns 14.
- Investing in the care economy through funding a 15% wage increase for aged care workers, over 85% who are women.
- Increasing Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
- Investing $72.4 million in training to build and retain the Early Childhood workforce.
- $134.1 million over 4 years for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.
- $326.7 million over 4 years for the National Plan to End Violence against women and children and dedicated funding for a First Nations National Plan.
- Focus on new health measures that recognise women’s health and improve access to health services.
“We know that most sole parent families are headed by women and one in three of these families is living in poverty,” CEW past President Sue Morphet said.
The increase to JobSeeker for people over 55 was welcomed with the rate of older women at risk, or experiencing homelessness, increased by 30% in the last five years.
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow said that older women were disproportionately impacted by unemployment and were the fastest growing group at risk of homelessness.
“Fifty five percent of older JobSeekers and those receiving rent assistance are women. They’re 6% less likely to have a superannuation account and if they do, their balances are about a quarter lower than men’s.”
“Requiring superannuation to be paid on pay day is a simple measure that will benefit workers and improve retirement savings for older Australians,” she said.
The ANMF wants to see extending the superannuation guarantee to Commonwealth paid parental leave to provide women with economic security in retirement and to reduce the superannuation gap between women and men.
“Given that there is a disparity in superannuation outcomes for women and that the Australian nursing and midwifery workforce comprise of 89% women, who on average retire with 40% less superannuation than men, it’s crucial that reform addresses the gender pay gap,” said Federal Assistant Secretary Lori-Anne Sharp.
The 2023-24 Budget will deliver a $199.8 million package with a focus on intergenerational disadvantage and child and family wellbeing with action in the early years through health, education and protection from harm to break cycles of disadvantage.
Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five welcomed progress towards universal early learning, the increase in child care subsidies and the $72.4 million in skills development and training.
“However, Australian children, families and communities will only realise the full benefits of early learning if these Budget announcements are followed up with a wider package of reforms to deliver a universally accessible and affordable, high-quality early childhood education and care system.”
Key claims by the early childhood sector include scrapping of the Child Care Subsidy activity test, along with a wage increase for the early education workforce to help mitigate critical workforce shortages and to attract and retain educators.
“We note that the federal Budget includes fully funded wage increases of 15% for the aged care sector and we welcome this as an important step in redressing gender inequity in wage rates.
“Action is needed to address poor wages in the early childhood education and care sector to enable it to deliver the government’s promise of more affordable and accessible early education for children and families,” said Early Childhood Australia CEO Samantha Page.
Ending violence against women and children with funding through a range of new initiatives with investment of $589.3 million to support women’s safety, in the Budget to help deliver the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters said the government needed to commit to the women’s safety sector’s sustained calls for $1 billion for frontline family and domestic violence services.
National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality will be released in the second half of 2023. The federal government established the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce to provide independent advice on the strategy after consultation with women around Australia.