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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Canberra women miss out in Federal Budget

The much anticipated 2020-21 Federal Budget was released last night, and while praised for its high spending, it has been criticised for its lack of focus on women.

Women have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic, with 7.4% of jobs for women declining in the ACT compared to 5.5% of jobs for men.  

Data from the same ABS report showed women’s wages fell by 7.9% in the ACT compared to 6.9% for men during March and April.

While the Budget outlines a $240 million funding package for female work participation over five years, it has been labelled a very small portion of the $500 billion plus total. 

ACT Council of Social Services (ACTCOSS) CEO Dr Emma Campbell labelled the Budget as a “missed opportunity” from the Federal Government.

“We are pretty disappointed in the Budget when it comes to supporting women in the ACT. I would call it a missed opportunity,” she said. 

“We know they have been disproportionately affected in sectors such as arts, hospitality and childcare that are dominated by women.

“A $240 million package to women when you see billions poured into infrastructure, which will predominantly recruit men, is disappointing to say the least.”

A lack of spending in the childcare sector is one point of feedback echoed from the community sector, with no new spending for providers outside those impacted by the Victorian lockdown.

The Commonwealth Government removed childcare providers from the JobKeeper program during July, hitting the female-dominated workforce.

The Australian National University’s Dr Liz Allen, from the Centre for Social Research and Methods, said the Budget’s lack of investment in childcare was an outdated approach.

“The lack of investment in childcare and gender equality harks back to the 1930s when the male-breadwinner model of families took hold,” she said.

“Women, especially mothers, lost paid employment and associated entitlements. As well as bearing the brunt of the economic impacts, women have shouldered the bulk of additional caring and household stresses.

“There were endless possibilities to be taken advantage of in the Budget to reset policy priorities for the better and these were sadly dismissed.”

However, the Budget did announce continued funding for some Commonwealth funded community services, covering the cost of the Equal Remuneration Order (ERO).

Dr Campbell said the supplement, due to end in 2021, would benefit women if continued by the Commonwealth Government.

“We are looking for more details, but this will mean that we can prevent job losses and cuts to Commonwealth-funded community services in the ACT,” she said.

“This is important from a gender perspective because of the dominance of women in the community services sector and that the ERO was put in place to ensure feminised work in the community services sector was properly recognised and rewarded.”

Dr Campbell said while she could see the method behind the Budget, investing in female-dominated workforces would have been more beneficial.  

“This is a government who is betting on business to create new jobs. It’s a hopeful Budget that tax cuts for business will create new jobs and not just line the pockets of shareholders but there is no evidence that will work and I don’t share their optimism,” she said.

“One of the ways the government could have increased jobs and economic growth would have been investment in jobs that employ women.

“Research shows people on lower incomes, when you give them money, put it straight back to the economy because they have to.”

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