How does the federal budget impact Australian women?

How does the federal budget impact Australian women?

Women have been acknowledged in the federal budget, with equality in the workplace, safety and healthcare among the winning items.

In Labor’s first federal budget since their election win in May, treasurer Jim Chalmers made it clear that gender equality was a top priority.

“Gender inequality is holding Australia back,” he said in the Women’s Budget Statement.

“Until there is true gender equality, we cannot reach our full potential and be the Australia we want to be.”

Minister for Women, Senator Katy Gallagher, said the government was committed to levelling the playing field for women.

“Women are not an add-on in this budget. They are not a group of people that are nice to consider or include in the budget as a political fix like they have been under the former government,” she said.

“Labor’s first budget delivers on our election commitment to elevate the position of women in Australia through responsible and targeted investments, because we know that policies that are good for women are good for the economy.”

Here are the key wins for women in the 2022 federal budget:

Affordable childcare, more paid parental leave

The budget came out swinging for Australian women from making childcare more affordable, reducing the gender pay gap, making TAFE courses for teenage children affordable or free, increasing paid parental leave to 26 weeks, and spending big on the reduction of domestic violence under the big tent of improving Australian women’s lives.

Although there’s still a long way to go, it is heartening to see that the majority of judges in the High Court are women. The impact of High Court decisions across all Australian groups, industry, business and wellbeing is crucial, and to have a majority female judges on the top court of the land is a great step towards equality.

Female participation in workforce is vital

Australian unemployment is low, but many businesses are faltering without enough ‘hands on deck’.

The treasurer has dedicated $4.7 billion over four years to make childcare more affordable, with the aim to increase workforce participation.

Together with the increase in immigration and expanding paid parental leave to 26 weeks by July 2026, it is crucial for Australian success in times of global recession to provide incentives for women have access to work.

With increasing inflation eating into the family budget, the only way out is to increase the amount of money coming into the family to stay ahead.

The government will provide a $20.2 million investment to establish two new expert panels on Pay Equity and the Care and Community Sector in the Fair Work Commission. This will bolster the Fair Work Commission’s ability to review applications from female-dominated industries whose work is regularly undervalued and underpaid.

There will also be reform to the workplace relations system to make gender equity an objective of the Fair Work Act 2009 and legislate a statutory equal remuneration principle.

Minister for Women, Senator Katy Gallagher

Minister for Women, Senator Katy Gallagher. Image credit: Katy Gallagher.

Women’s safety

To support the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, the government will investment more than $1.7 billion to a range of projects.

This includes funding to target gender-based violence, additional support through the Escaping Violence Payment program, and trialling innovative responses to address the behaviour of perpetrators.

There will also be funding for 500 frontline service and community workers to support women and children experiencing family, domestic and sexual violence.

Women’s health and wellbeing

To support women’s health and wellbeing, the government has pledged to fund 12 new perinatal mental health centres across the country, and will expand the pregnancy and postnatal guidelines for expectant parents, including targeted consultation and guidance for culturally and linguistically diverse and First Nations people.

Women can also take advantage of cheaper medicines, as the cost of general scripts on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) will decrease. From January 2023, the cost of general scripts under the PBS will drop from $42.50 to $30.

Important unseen budget issues for women

Some important issues that were not found in the Women’s Budget Statement but are highly important to women is the $4000 increase in the income threshold to be earned by women receiving the aged pension.

Keeping older women in the workforce earning up to $11,000 income while still receiving the full aged pension ensures that we hold onto women who often have front facing and back office roles – so important for small and medium businesses.

One area that the Government should be highly praised for is the promise of 480,000 fee-free TAFE places and a $50 million TAFE Technology Fund to modernise TAFEs.  This provides mothers with children a pathway to learn from home, whether brushing up on existing skills or learning skills for a new career. And as their children get older, a TAFE education paid for by the government will provide children with a much needed trade or career, thereby increasing the underlying net income of the family household.

There may be hard times ahead but with the government providing incentives for an increase in the workforce participation rate for women plus a commitment to close the gender equality gap means that we will have the best chance of staring down a recession.

Michael Jeffriess

This article was written by Michael Jeffriess.

Michael is a chartered accountant with a broad range of experience in roles such as chief financial officer, operations and projects executive, executive director, and as an investment and compliance committee member across several ASX-listed and privately held groups, predominantly within the financial services industry.

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