The journey towards this year’s federal budget was paved with expectations. In an unpredictable fiscal environment marred by creeping inflation and the cost of living, it was difficult to have hope. The delivered budget includes wins and challenges, with glimmers of cautious optimism for women and those who need support most.
Below, we unpack the three biggest wins for women in this budget. But first, we want to speak to the opportunity that must be picked up in future budgets.
Nationwide, women are not only experiencing high levels of family violence, but they are also bearing the economic weight of it to the tune of around $6.7 billion a year. This includes healthcare costs, loss of productivity and inability to work, pain and suffering, and even death.
While there is a $589 million investment in ending violence against women over four years in this budget, very little is allocated to preventing violence before it starts.
Doing everything we can to prevent violence against women from happening in the first place makes clear economic sense, not only to reduce the costs faced by governments and women themselves, but to ultimately drive down the rates of violence against women in this country.
If no further action is taken to prevent this form of violence, as a country we will spend an estimated $323 billion over the next 30 years.
By committing to increased and sustained investment in prevention and shifting national gender norms, we could grow the economy by an estimated $128 billion per year. This would translate to an extra $12,200 for individual households each year.
No matter how shaky our economic environment becomes, we should not take the foot off the gas when it comes to prevention – it’s the time to push it further, for the economy and for the safety of women and families.
What are the top three wins for women in the 2023 budget?
This budget includes investment in the 2023-2032 National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, including for the first time a standalone action plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
Beyond these critical action plans, the most significant benefits are those measures that support poverty alleviation. Poverty in Australia is a gendered issue, and more than half of Australians living in poverty are women or girls. When women become mothers or hit retirement age, their income and financial resources drop significantly because of the way our society is set up.
This budget takes an important step in positioning women as core members of our workforce and economy, and that supporting women and industries that are currently predominantly staffed by women are key to moving forwards. While it will take more than a single budget to solve these issues, the acknowledgement of gendered poverty and the inclusion of gender responsive budgeting is a step in the right direction.
Increased financial support
A number of support payments are seeing increases in this budget, including an increase of $40 per week for those on JobSeeker. The payment scheme will also be extended so that people in the 55-59 age range can now access JobSeeker, further benefiting women who make up 55% of that population.
The increase in the Commonwealth Rent Assistance by $31 per fortnight will also benefit women, given they are the majority of rent assistance recipients.
Support for single parents
More than 90% of single parents in Australia are women. The expansion of the eligibility for Single Parent payments will mean primary carers whose youngest child is under 14 years (previously capped at 8 years) can access or continue to access payments. In addition, the scrapping of the mandatory ParentsNext program acknowledges the important and unpaid care work of single mothers in this country and is the result of sustained advocacy from women, particularly mothers over many years.
Support for increased wages and skills development
More than 80% of Australia’s aged care workforce are women. The value of their work was evident during the pandemic and has been further highlighted as part of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. It’s heartening to see there will be more than $515 million dedicated to pay rises for those workers.
More than $70 million will be used to support the early childhood workforce, and national targets will be set for women apprentices and trainees to work in male-dominated industries like construction. These measures are all valuable in shifting cultural norms and working towards closing the gender pay gap.
Preventing violence against women starts with changing the culture that allows it to happen. Right now, women face inequality in the workplace, in homes, and as care givers, which contributes to a society where women are undervalued, and gender inequality thrives. This budget is taking steps in the right direction to acknowledge and begin balancing out the inequality that women experience, which can ultimately set the scene for preventing violence.