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The annual budget staple that quietly disappeared

Jessica Yun
·4-min read
What will the 2020-21 Federal Budget have for women? (Source: Getty, AAP)
What will the 2020-21 Federal Budget have for women? (Source: Getty, AAP)

Every Australian is expecting to receive support from the Morrison Government in the 2020-21 Budget to be announced Tuesday evening.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has flagged that the Budget will be all about creating jobs to pull Australia out of arguably the worst recession in the nation’s history.

But there’s one thing that will likely be missing from the Budget: a gender impact statement.

According to professors from Curtin University and the University of South Australia, every budget since Bob Hawke in 1984 had a gender impact statement (albeit published under slightly varying names).

But after the first Abbott government budget in 2014, we haven’t seen one since.

What’s the gender impact statement?

The statement traditionally would have accompanied the budget papers, and outlined what each budget policy would have on gender equality.

“In its foreword, then Prime Minister Hawke promised that ‘within the overall economic objectives of the government’ important budget decisions would from then on be made ‘with full knowledge of their impact on women’,” wrote academics Rhonda Sharp, Monica Costa and Siobhan Austen in The Conversation.

“These women’s budget statements shed light on the impact of decisions that might have been thought to have little to do with gender, such as the Hawke government’s reduction of tariffs on imports of clothing, textiles and footwear.”

At its best, policies were improved because its impact on women were reported on.

But this ended with the Abbott government in 2014, after which the National Foundation of Women and Labor published their own analyses of gender impacts of budget policies.

But this is “not a substitute for the government undertaking its own analysis,” the academics wrote.

And given Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on women, the inclusion of a gender impact statement in the budget will be more important than ever, they added, given that women’s ability to participate in the economy is hampered by care responsibilities.

‘Pink recession, blue recovery’

Speaking from Parliament House on Tuesday, Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese indicated today’s budget needed to emphasise jobs for women.

"We can't have a pink recession and a blue recovery," he said. "What we need to do is make sure, in terms of fairness, that those issues are addressed."

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely crippled sectors that are female-heavy, such as retail and hospitality industries.

And even in the arts and entertainment sectors – where more men are hired – women tend to shoulder more jobs and hours cut.

Short-term casuals are excluded from JobKeeper, and childcare workers were first to have wage subsidies pulled.

Mothers were given a brief leg up in the pandemic free childcare and places reserved for children of essential workers. But this didn’t last long.

“The subsequent rolling back of these measures once again rendered the economic importance of care invisible, with negative gender impacts,” they said.

“Gender responsive budgeting could make a substantial contribution, documenting the extent to which investment in childcare and other services is more likely to create jobs, and jobs for women, than spending on construction.”

Scott Morrison has already leaked several budget policies, many of which focus on manufacturing and construction in an infrastructure-led economic recovery. These sectors are male-dominated.

His tax cuts, which have already been confirmed ahead of the budget, are also disproportionately advantageous for wealthy men, according to analysis by the Australia Institute.

So what is the Morrison Government doing for women?

Two years ago under then-Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer, the Liberal government published its inaugural Women’s Economic Security Statement in 2018.

This year, the Government will release its second one.

“In tonight's budget, we'll be releasing our second women's economic security statement, helping to boost female workforce participation,” Frydenberg said.

"We want to get it back to that record high that it was before this crisis began.

"In tonight's budget, we'll also be supporting young people."

It took unemployment 10 years to get unemployment back below 6 per cent in the 1990s.

“We want to move faster than that and importantly, we want to help women and young people get back to work.”

Aside from this, it’s not yet clear what the budget will contain for women.

–with AAP

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