Budget confirms commitment to a gender-equal Australia
26 October 2022
The October 2022-23 Women’s Budget Statement (WBS) affirms and extends the Australian Government’s commitment to ensuring that a gender lens is imposed on all Budget measures. For example, we see this through the upfront commitment to run gender responsive budgeting with a view to achieving gender equality across Budget outcomes.
Further, in the WBS the Albanese Government goes beyond naming the four (4) thematic areas (advancing gender equality, women’s economic equality, ending violence against women, and gender equality, health and wellbeing) by delivering policy and funding that is targeted within each of these issues. For example, the Government has prioritised women’s healthcare across the health system, increased funding to childcare support with a view to alleviating both cost of living and women’s workforce participation numbers, and made changes to paid parental leave and access to subsidised early childhood education.
The WBS measures arrive at a time of increasing disparity. The gender pay gap is 14.1 per cent, and as the Albanese Government points out, Australia is ranked 43rd of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index. Given this, the Albanese Government has plans to introduce a National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality that will guide future actions and work toward the Government’s goal of an Australia that is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world.
Below we highlight key policy measures across the four (4) thematic areas in the WBS.
Advancing gender equality
This Budget and WBS set the foundations necessary to achieve gender equality. The Government has established a Ministerial Council on Women and Women’s Safety, reporting directly to National Cabinet on its priorities.
Key points of the WBS in relation to the broad thematic area of advancing gender equality can be summarised as:
Implementation of gender-responsive budgeting measures across the Budget;
Implementation of a National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality;
Establishment of the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce to provide independent advice to the Government;
Establishing a method to collect high-quality and accessible intersectional gender disaggregated data;
Investing and partnering with First Nations women; and
Committing to global leadership on gender equality through measurable aid program targets, advocating for gender specific issues in the multilateral system e.g., the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Human Rights Council, and the UN General Assembly.
Achieving economic equality for women
Achieving economic equality is viewed by the Albanese Government as essential to achieving gender equality. From a practical perspective this means removing barriers that limit women’s opportunities and addressing drivers of the gender pay gap, and discrimination and violence against women.
In this section of the WBS, the Government lays out the evidentiary basis for future policy changes in the sense that if economic equality is to be achieved, then the areas highlighted below will need to be targeted and addressed nationally. For example, the Government leverages the evidence presented in She’s Price(d)less: the Economics of the Gender Pay Gap 2022 Report1 among other sources, that point to the key drivers of the gender pay gap (gender discrimination and bias, type of job and industry sector of employment, caring for family, and workforce participation) and takes a deep dive to highlight the sub-thematic drivers that require attention from policy makers. The evidence clearly points to the impact that these drivers have on lifelong economic wellbeing seen through outcomes in superannuation and retirement.
In view of this, key measures outlined in the WBS include:
More affordable childcare;
Expanding Paid Parental Leave;
Reaffirming the commitments made at the Jobs and Skills Summit;
Embedding in the Fair Work Act 2009 a statutory equal remuneration principle;
Limiting the use of fixed-term contracts via the Fair Work Act 2009; and
Establishing a Digital and Tech Skills Compact to get under-represented groups into the tech sector; and
Improving women’s housing security.
Ending Violence Against Women and Children
The Government is making a record investment of $1.7 billion to end violence against women and children. Women’s safety has been made a priority and the Government intend to provide the national and international leadership to implement this. Key Budget highlights include:
Funding to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace;
Funding for a range of activities to prevent violence at the start e.g., education at schools regarding consent and respectful relationships;
Supporting a national, cohesive approach to prevent violence including increased funding for Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, Our Watch, and a strengthening of the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission’s program to deliver evidence-based advice to Government;
Increased funding for a range of programs to support victim-survivors that includes Temporary Visa Holders and support for Trafficked People; and
Increased funding for programs that hold perpetrators to account.
Gender equality, health and wellbeing
It is clear from the introduction that the Government has prioritised understanding the difference between male and female health needs and outcomes in its policy agenda for equality, health and wellbeing of all Australians. By applying a gender lens to both health policy and the fact that the health and aged care industries are female dominated in terms of workforce, the Government has shown that it intends to consider both the broader policy imperatives and the practical realities of budget implementation.
Given this, the Budget highlights in this thematic area include:
Actions to support improved mental health outcomes covering strengthening Medicare, expanding the headspace network, and strengthening Medicare’s GP Practices Grants Program;
Further measures and funding to support reproductive and maternal health; and
Implementation of policy measures to support the care economic such as employment pathways, increase in counselling services to midwives and nurses, support for a pay rise for aged care workers, and initiatives to put nurses back in nursing homes.
Overall, this is a WBS that lays the evidentiary foundation for further support measures in later budgets which should only lead to positive outcomes from a gender equality perspective.
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