The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) will be playing a vocal role in bringing to your attention KEY issues around critical policies for women that need to be addressed and part of the dialogue in the lead up to the 2022 Federal Election. Over the next few weeks, NFAW will be taking a deep dive on key policy issues to bring forward the real conversations that need to be aired in the media to keep current and future governments on topic, and on task with the needs of all women in Australia. This platform builds on a track record of NFAW delivering a comprehensive Gender Lens on the Budget since 2014 when the Abbott Government discontinued the practice of issuing a Women’s Budget Statement.
A panel of highly regarded economists and social policy academics and practitioners, led by Professor Helen Hodgson, formed a Gender Lens panel in January 2022 to bring you insights and critical thinking regarding the policies associated with the Gender Lens to be discussed in the media, including thoughtful and thought- provoking questions you all need to be asking politicians around policies that they will implement. We hope that this will help to inform discussion in this pre-election phase.
Gender Lens 2022 Women’s Economic Security: Gender Responsive Budgeting
In Australia, as elsewhere, the outbreak of Covid-19 has exposed and deepened pre-existing inequalities. These include gender inequalities and ways women experience inequality, including on the basis of unpaid care roles, race, disability, age, sexuality, regional location or national origin. The same inequalities are being exposed by climate change. Our annual Gender Lens on the Budget analysis has exposed how flood, drought and fire have brought greater health risks to women, increased their exposure to violence and left them more likely to lose or forgo employment opportunities because of additional community and care responsibilities.
We have seen women as primary carers and home schoolers, forced to cut working hours or withdraw from the labour force; women as exposed and underpaid deliverers of health, aged, child and disability care services; women as insecure casualised workers who are ineligible for sick leave and for covid support; women as exposed multiple job holders moving between care sites; women as victims of violence trapped at home; growing numbers of women without basic income forced into homelessness.
Put it another way: the stresses of covid have exposed the fact that the national social infrastructure is failing – failing those who receive care and those who deliver caring services and failing those pushed into social welfare by chronic job insecurity, skewed tax and superannuation policies, and domestic and family violence.
Marketisation has failed to deliver an adequate care infrastructure, and it has distorted the design, funding, delivery and adequacy of our social welfare services. Driven by a tax system that gives tax preferences to investment earnings over earned income, it has caused services to be configured to suit for-profit providers to reduce government outlays, and to capitalise on family responsibilities of primary carers. Women work where these embedded drivers meet, in insecure and undervalued jobs in the underfunded and often understaffed workplaces where Australians receive care. Demands on failing social infrastructure will only continue to intensify with the ageing of the population and the growing costs and impacts of climate change. Resources for social infrastructure will continue to contract with a tax system targeting earned rather than unearned income.
The 2020 budget is still notorious for having ignored social infrastructure and pouring resources into construction – and then excluding desperately needed social housing. The 2021 budget, which was supposed to deliver for women, stumped up only 0.14% of annual outlays over 4 years for its plan for women’s economic security.
The NFAW Gender Briefing Papers 2022 will call on the Australian Government to rebuild national social infrastructure through more gender-responsive budgeting and reforms. We look forward to sharing our research and highlighting critical policy issues that need to be aired in the lead-up to the 2022 Federal Election.
Professor Helen Hodgson
Chair Social Policy Committee
Marie Coleman AO PSM
Advisor to Social Policy Committee
Key policy actions the gender lens briefing papers will address in 2022 include:
1. Employment reform
One of the measures of a strong economy is a strong social infrastructure. ECEC, disability care and aged care services are far from strong: these systems are failing those receiving services and those delivering services. There are not enough services to enable to women to engage with the paid workforce, and terms and conditions of employment are poor, leaving the sector facing substantial and growing staff shortages in the face of growing need. The current iteration of the Fair Work Act offers token and inadequate mechanisms to address insecure and casualised work and discriminatory rates of pay.
2. Welfare reform: a Social Compact
The COVID pandemic showed that welfare reform is possible. During the first wave of the pandemic welfare payments were increased, providing security to welfare recipients during lockdowns. However that support has now been withdrawn and replaced with an increase in Jobseeker of $50 per fortnight, or $3.57 per day. Welfare has a gendered aspect with 58% of all Social Security being paid to women. The largest group of people on Jobseeker are women over 50, who are also most likely to be receiving the payment long term. Australia can afford welfare reform to provide dignity to people on welfare.
3.Tax and superannuation reform
It is well recognised that women have lower superannuation balances at retirement than men of a comparable age, and that older women are the fastest growing demographic group of the homeless, largely as a result of women earning less during their working life. What is less well recognised is that the gender pay gap is also reflected in the taxation system. The recent program of tax cuts is biased against women as they are less likely to be in the highest marginal tax rates, where the tax cuts will give the greatest refund; and more likely to be in the lower tax brackets where low- and middle-income tax offsets are used to stave off tax increases. The use of offsets to bridge the gap between tax cuts creates uncertainty as they are legislated on an annual basis. Tax reform is essential to raise the funds that Australia needs to pay for services such as Aged Care, Child Care and welfare reform.
Key writers :
Professor Helen Hodgson (Curtin University)
Dr Leonora Risse (RMIT)
4.Integrity, Gender and the Just Use of Power
NFAW produces an annual Gender Lens on the Budget as an accountability measure because the government picks only the budget policies it wants to account for. But budgets are not the only way of allocating public resources. Soft corruption such as pork barrelling and the politicisation of the public service also have gender implications. Soft corruption is a mechanism for reinforcing insider power. It is associated with gendered political settings and characterised by gendered decision-making and policy outcomes. New social institutions are required to address it: a full Gender Lens on the Budget in the hands of the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, full resourcing for other economic integrity institutions such as the ANAO and, importantly, an independent, well-resourced and properly empowered Integrity Commission. Gendered settings in government and business need to be addressed through full implementation of the recommendations of the Jenkins Report on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplace and those of the more wide-ranging Respect@Work.
Honorary Associate Professor Sally Moyle (ANU)
Dr Kathy MacDermott
5. Climate Change And Disaster Management
Climate change also has a gender dimension. Women are more likely than men to suffer the adverse health consequences of extreme climate events, and women are disproportionally affected by climate change disasters. In Australia, disasters increase women’s economic insecurity: women lose or forgo employment opportunities on taking up additional community and care responsibilities, as shown after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, and the 2011 floods in Queensland and Victoria. Disasters also increase rates of gender-based violence, including from the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires, a pattern replicated after the 2020 fires. Failure to take action on climate change and emissions abatement can exacerbate gender inequality and reduce women’s ability to adapt. Women are also more likely to express their concern about global warming, and to support climate change mitigation policies.
Dr Debra Parkinson and Dr Catherine Weiss
Key contacts for the NFAW 2022 Gender Lens Briefing Papers for Media
Prof Helen Hodgson: firstname.lastname@example.org