In a year defined by women’s stories and women’s rage, all eyes were on Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to deliver a Federal Budget that put women front and centre.
The Government had been forced to defend its 2020 Budget by noting that “women drive on roads” amid dismay over a seemingly measly $240 million spending.
Earlier this year it faced cascading crises from within Parliament House itself.
At the same time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Frydenberg have been grappling with sluggish wage growth and a growing productivity challenge as the rate of underemployment remains stubbornly high.
And in Australia, one woman is killed in an act of domestic violence nearly every week.
As many experts and advocates noted, the 2021 Budget urgently needed to reinstate the Women’s Budget Statement. Not only in the name of gender equality, but also to boost productivity.
The 2021 Budget did feature a Women’s Budget Statement and $3.4 billion in funding for women’s services and policies.
But did it deliver?
Yahoo Finance breaks it down.
Here’s what the Federal Budget had for women:
Superannuation changes: $450 threshold scrapped, concessions extended
Australian women retire with an average 40 per cent less in their superannuation, due to a combination of lower lifetime pay, broken paid work patterns and superannuation settings and concessions.
The Government will remove the $450 superannuation threshold in a bid to address this. As it stands, employers only need to pay superannuation to workers who have earned at least $450 over the course of the month.
However, as women make up 68 per cent of part time workers, this policy disproportionately impacts them.
This policy is expected to come into place by 1 July 2022 and will come at a cost of $31.5 million by 2025.
The Government will also extend access to the downsizer contribution. Previously, Australians needed to be over 65 to access the concession , but this will be extended to those aged 60 and over.
This concession allows people to make one-off, post-tax contributions to their superannuation of up to $300,000 from the proceeds of their house sale.
- What did this miss?
Economists and advocates had called for the Government to mandate superannuation on paid parental leave.
As it stands, parental leave is the only type of paid leave in Australia that doesn’t attract superannuation payments, a policy that has been linked to women’s lower super balances at retirement.
However, this policy was unchanged in the 2021 Federal Budget.
The Australia Institute also called on the Government to reconsider superannuation tax concessions. The think tank found 72 per cent of the $41 billion concessions flows to men, and called for the benefits to be redirected to support women with broken paid work history.
Also read: Budget 2021: Winners and losers
Childcare and parental leave: Subsidies increased, leave unchanged
Australia has the fourth most expensive childcare system in the OECD, and when it comes to bringing more women into the workforce, this is a major problem.
KPMG analysis in 2018 found the cost is so high that for many working mothers, it’s more expensive for them to work four or more days a week than it is for them to do unpaid care work.
The Women’s Budget Statement also noted that nearly half of all women looking for more work cited care responsibilities as the major barrier stopping them from starting a new role. That’s compared to just 3 per cent of men.
Under the 2021 Federal Budget, the Government will increase the Child Care Subsidy for families with two or more children aged five or under.
From 11 July 2022, the subsidy will increase by up to 30 percentage points, taking the upper subsidy from 85 per cent to 95 per cent. At the same time, the annual subsidy cap of $10,560 will be removed.
The Government estimates these policies, valued at $1.7 billion, will help 250,000 families and add 300,000 hours worked a week to the economy. It predicts this will boost GDP by up to $1.5 billion.
- How does that work out for me?
If you are a two-child family with a household income of $40,000, then your maximum subsidy will increase from 85 per cent to 95 per cent, at a saving of $41.60 a week.
If you had an income of $80,000, the subsidy would increase from 82 per cent to 95 per cent and save you $53.79 a week.
If you were taking home $110,000, the subsidy would jump from 72 per cent to 95 per cent, saving you $95.39.
And if you had a household income of $140,000, the subsidy would increase from 62 per cent to 92 per cent, delivering savings of $124.80.
Households taking home $180,000 would see the subsidy increase from 50 per cent to 80 per cent, also saving those households $124.80.
- Paid parental leave
When it comes to paid parental leave, however, the Budget had no good news for working families.
The Federal Budget has no changes to the paid parental leave scheme, despite heavy lobbying from economists, parent groups and consulting firms.
Women’s safety: Cash payments and a changed legal system
In Australia, one woman is killed by a current or former partner every nine days.
Violence against women is an epidemic estimated to cost the country $26 billion annually and is a problem that only worsened over COVID-19.
Two-thirds of women who have experienced violence at the hands of a current or former live-in partner reported the violence started or escalated during the pandemic.
- Is it enough?
According to Women’s Safety NSW, one in three women and girls seeking accommodation to flee domestic violence are unable to be housed due to a chronic lack of funding for the sector.
Chief executive of Women’s Safety NSW Hayley Foster called on the Government to funnel an additional $1 billion into frontline domestic violence services every year.
The 2021 Budget includes $1.1 billion for women’s safety, however that will be split over the coming four years, meaning it’s essentially a quarter of what Foster asked for.
- Domestic violence cash payments
From June 2023, the Government will run a two-year trial providing emergency payments for women leaving a violent relationship. The package will be worth $5,000, with $1,500 available in cash and the rest in goods.
- Domestic violence sector funding
The Government will put $261.4 million into a new National Partnership Agreement
agreement over two years, with a goal of boosting frontline support services. States and territories will also be required to contribute to the scheme.
It will also put $25.3 million into funding for more targeted frontline services and $12.6 million into purchasing or building emergency accommodation.
- Services Australia change
Under a new trial, women attempting to navigate the welfare system after leaving a violent relationship will only need to tell their story once to access support. Previously, women in these situations were required to repeatedly narrate their stories in potentially re-traumatising experiences.
- Indigenous women
Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to have been hospitalised due to family violence.
The Budget includes $57.6 million in funding to work with Indigenous communities to break the cycle of violence, and to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council.
- Migrant and refugee women
Women from refugee backgrounds are at a greater risk of financial abuse and reproductive coercion, often due to social isolation and a lack of support networks.
The Government will fund a pilot program allowing temporary visa holders experiencing family violence to explore avenues to visas that don’t rely on staying with their violent partner.
It will also extend the Temporary Visa Holders Payment Pilot through to 2023. Under this pilot, eligible temporary visa holders are granted up to $3,000 to cover essential needs.
- Women with a disability
Australian women with disability are more likely to experience but less likely to report violence and abuse.
The Budget includes $9.3 million over three years aimed at responding to and preventing violence against women and girls with disability.
- Family law system
Around $416.2 million in funding will be put into the family law system with a goal of protecting children, streamlining the process and reducing time in court.
This includes $85 million in funding for Family Advocacy and Support Services, $60.8 million to reform Family Law Case management to make it more child-focused and $129 million to increase funding for women attempting to access justice.
Additionally, $10.7 million will be invested over two years into providing lawyers for couples divorcing with less than $500,000 in assets. This is aimed at streamlining the legal process and assisting in the distribution of the assets.
It noted that women often experience far greater drops in disposable income than men following a divorce, with court proceedings taking a significant chunk.
- Revenge porn
Women make up nearly 70 per cent of victims from the sharing of non-consensual intimate images.
The Government will put $26.2 million into taking on toxic online cultures. This includes $18 million over two years for eSafety to improve its investigations and responses to image-based abuse and online harassment.
Another $3 million will be invested over two years will be put into implementing technologies that can identify intimate images that have been shared without the consent of those depicted.
Women at work: JobTrainer, aged care focus
CEO of parents’ association The Parenthood, Georgie Dent, called on the Government to increase its support for the childcare sector and its workers, with Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill echoing the calls.
University of Sydney professor of gender and employment relations Marian Baird AO also called on the Government to invest in the heavily feminised aged care and child care sectors as a means of increasing women’s workforce participation.
- Aged care workers
The Government will put an additional $500 million into its JobTrainer fund to provide another 163,000 places, with 33,800 of those allocated to aged care workers looking to upskill.
It will also invest $216.7 million over three years into upskilling the aged care workforce, providing additional nursing scholarships and provide more dementia and palliative care training.
That money will also be targeted at recruiting more aged care workers in regional and remote Australia, and to provide eligible nurses with additional financial support.
Another $91.8 million will be put into the training of an additional 13,000 new home care workers.
The Government claims this workforce investment will also benefit aged care services recipients, two in three of which are older women.
- Indigenous women entrepreneurs
The Budget includes $13.9 million over four years for an Early Stage Social Enterprise Foundation, with an aim of supporting early sage social enterprises improving economic security of Indigenous Women.
The Foundation will provide loans and grants to around 30 social enterprises, supporting Indigenous women entrepreneurs.
- Mid-career women
Women aged 30-45 will be able to access the Government’s Mid-Career Checkpoint service more quickly. The checkpoint offers free careers counselling services for women who have taken time off to take on caring responsibilities.
It was previously only open to women who have been out of work for two years, however is now open to women who have been out of work for six months.
- Tackling sexual harassment
Sexual harassment at work has been in the spotlight since Brittany Higgins’ explosive allegations of a toxic culture at Parliament House.
The Government will put $9.3 million over four years into the Respect@Work Council Secretariat.
However, it didn’t put a figure on how much it will put into increasing legal assistance for victims of sexual harassment at work. It said this funding is subject to ongoing discussions with state and territory governments.
It will however put $5.3 million into developing primary prevention initiatives and $6
.0 million will also be targeted at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to support its reporting on gender equality in Australian workplaces.
- Sports stars and leaders
Football Australia will receive a $12 million two-year grant, with the money to be spent on eight additional Matilda’s international matches, international tours and domestic camps for the seven national teams.
Basketball Australia will also receive a $5 million grant to deliver the FIBA Women’s World Cup in 2022.
The Government says this funding is required to demonstrate the highlight the role of elite sportswomen as role models.
- Women in STEM
The Government aims to build the number of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through a $42.4 million investment. That money, spent over seven years, plans to support more than 230 women to pursue higher level STEM qualifications.
Housing: Boost for single parents, social housing left behind
Home ownership is one of the biggest determinants in whether a woman will retire comfortably or in poverty.
Homeowners have lower housing costs and also have an asset they can draw down on in retirement.
- Family Home Guarantee
From 1 July 2021, 10,000 single parents will be able to build or purchase homes with deposits of 2 per cent.
The Government expects 125,000 single parents will be eligible for the Guarantee, with 105,000 of those female.
- Social housing
Outside of the $12.6 million directed at building emergency accommodation for people leaving violent relationships, the Budget has no new social housing initiatives.
The Government will however commit $124.7 million over two years to fund social and community services workers in the housing and homelessness sectors. Women make up 84 per cent of the 500,000 workers in this sector.
This represents an additional two years of funding. The funding is aimed at boosting public housing stocks, or to meet the wage requirements.
Women’s health: Breast cancer funding, PBS changes
The BreastScreen Australia Expansion National Partnership Agreement will receive $67.6 million to replace expired funding.
The agreement invites women aged 70-74 to undertake mammograms to detect breast cancer.
The Breast Cancer Network Australia will receive $6.6 million in funding for outreach services and the McGrath Foundation will receive $3.0 million to recruit and train breast care nurses.
Breast cancer is the number one killer of women aged 45 to 64, and the third leading cause of death for women aged 25 to 44.
It’s also considered one of the most preventable and treatable cancers.
Additionally, $32.8 million will be invested in cervical cancer screening, education and research, while $1 million will be invested in ovarian cancer care.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will also change to include Kisqali, which is used to treat women with advanced or metastatic breast cancer.
That means the cost of the treatment will go from $50,000 per course to $41.30 per script or $6.60 with a concession card.
Fulvestrant will also be listed on the PBS for women with advanced breast cancer. This drug previously cost more than $7,900 per course of treatment.
The 2021 Budget is set to be the last Federal Budget for the Morrison Government heads to an election.
In the wake of the Parliament House sexual harassment firestorm, the question is, will this be enough?
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