Covid-19 was not particularly kind to many in 2020, however, women were on the whole far more impacted than men. More women than men have been left unemployed or underemployed, they shouldered more of the burden of home schooling and increased household duties during lockdown and at the same time were more at risk from the escalating domestic violence crisis. This has been compounded by what feels like never ending sexual discrimination and harassment scandals in the Government.
In response to this the Morrison government promised us a budget that would have a focus on women and respond to the calls for greater equality at all levels. Whether this has been delivered won’t be determined straight away as most of the money allocated to women in the budget will go into a variety of support programs and very little will translate into a quickly calculable financial result for women. That’s not to say it has failed, it just means many programs will require continuous investment over many years to really drive change.
The key measures for women that have been addressed in the budget are:
Whilst not really a women’s issue [more of a family issue] the government will invest $1.7 billion over five years to reduce the cost of childcare. This will be done by:
- Removing the $10,560 cap on the childcare subsidy.
- Providing families with two or more children a 30% increase in the subsidy for their second and subsequent children. This will cap at a maximum of 95% of fees paid.
These measures are expected to support approximately 250,000 families.
Again, not specifically a women’s issue but from July 2021 the government will support up to 10,000 single parents in purchasing a home over four years. The Family Home Guarantee will only require recipients to have a 2% deposit to purchase a home. Eligible single parents will not have to be first home buyers as it will also be available for those trying to re-enter the housing market after a family breakdown.
There will be caps on the property price and the parent will need to prove they can service the loans, but for eligible people this will help provide much needed stability for single parents and their children.
Women are more likely than men to take career breaks or work in part-time and casual roles to raise families and attend to domestic duties. One of the impacts this has is many women retire with less superannuation than their male counterparts, which can lead to greater poverty rates in later life for women.
The changes to superannuation will help women boost their super [albeit not by much – but every little bit helps] through:
- Greater eligibility for super, with the $450 cap being scrapped. This will see people employed in casual and part-time roles being eligible for superannuation payments on every dollar they earn as ordinary times earnings. [Superannuation is payable on ordinary times earnings, a full list of what makes up OTE can be found here].
- An increase in the superannuation guarantee rate paid by employers from 9.5% to 10% starting on 1 July 2021.
Unfortunately, there is still no requirement to pay superannuation on paid parental leave which would have been far more helpful towards boosting females balances and has been disappointingly excluded from this budget.
Trade and education support
In an attempt to address gender stereotypes in the workforce and create a broader range of opportunities for women, funding and programs will be established to:
- Spend $63.5million on providing 2,700 places to indigenous girls to help them finish school and enter the workforce.
- Invest $42.4 million to support women to pursue qualifications in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics [STEM].
- Expand the National Careers Institute Partnership Grants program to provide women more career opportunities.
The greatest impact for women’s equality will come from seeing more women in leadership roles, to improve these numbers $38.3 million is to be spent over five years from 2021-22 to increase grant funding available through the Women’s Leadership and Development Program.
To promote greater gender equality, there will also be additional funding spent on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and there will be a review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
Girls in sport
The government has committed to encouraging girls to play sport and level the playing field through:
- $17 million funding boost to allow Australia to host the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2022 and the FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup in 2023.
- $12 million spent over two years to support the Matildas and national youth teams to compete in more international matches.
- $2.6 million to be spent over three years on the Career Revive program to support medium to large regional businesses in attracting and retaining return to work women.
- Assisting women to become accredited as coaches and officials.
- Encouraging indigenous women to participate in sport.
$26.2 million will be spent on making the online world a safer space. This is likely to have a greater impact for women and children who are more subjected to online harassment than men. The measures include:
- $18 million over two years to improve the ability of eSafety to quickly track down online harassers and allow a faster response to reports of cyber abuse and bullying, image-based abuse and harmful online content.
- $3 million over two years will be spent on technology to identify intimate images that have been shared without consent in an assist with its rapid removal.
- $5.2 million on launch of a new National Online Safety Awareness Campaign.
Court and legal assistance
It is an unfortunate truth that women often suffer a greater drop in disposable income after a separation or divorce. To assist with this, couples that are separating will have access to a more streamlined court process and lawyer-assisted mediation services that should reduce the cost outlays of a marriage breakdown.
In addition, $129 million will be provided for women needed to access legal services and $85 million will be spent on providing access to Family Advocacy and Support Services for each family law court with a permanent judge.
$60.8 million will be spent to shorten the litigation time of separations and $101.4 million will be spent on Children’s Contact Services to help separated parents safely navigate contact and the changeover of their children.
This budget has provided for multiple initiatives aimed at improving girl’s and women’s health with $351.6 million to be spent on maternal, sexual and reproductive health, ageing, chronic conditions, preventive health, and mental health. These important programs are investing in prevention, education, research and then ongoing support of health issues for females including:
- More than $100 million will be spent on screening programs for breast and cervical cancers and from April 1 the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme [PBS] will be amended to including listings for certain breast cancers. This should reduce the cost per course of treatment from around $50,000 to less than $50 per script.
- $95.9 million spent to fund pre-implantation genetic testing to support women who are at risk of having a child with a series genetic disorder through adding new services to the Medicare Benefits Schedule.
- $16.6 million will be spent over four years to implement the National Women’s Health Strategy with $5 million to be spent on pelvic pain and endometriosis support.
- $13.7 million will go towards expanding the Women’s and Infants Research Foundation which is working to reduce the rate of preterm birth, which currently sits at more than 8%.
- $47.4 million will go towards mental health programs and support for expecting parents.
- $26.9 million will be used to deliver better treatments for people with eating disorders and their families. Approximately 65% of eating disorder sufferers are women.
Domestic violence support
Before Covid, Australia was already suffering from a Domestic Violence crisis. This crisis only grew during a period of lockdown and social isolation when many victims became trapped with their abuser and had no reprieve.
To help to combat this there will be significant investment in domestic violence support with the government committing to Spending $1.1 billion on women’s safety measures including:
- Support for those escaping abusive relationships. This includes legal assistance, counselling, and emergency accommodation.
- Investment in Sale Place program to build, renovate or buy emergency accommodation.
- Prevention focused services such as the MensLine Australia and the No TO Violence Mens Referral Service.
There will also be a two-year trial of a program to provide women up to $5,000 in financial assistance and $2,000 in interest free loans for women escaping violence.
Workplace sexual harassment
It is a fundamental human right that we should be able to work in a safe environment. Lots of things can make an environment unsafe, and for women one of those items is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment not only creates an unsafe workplace but can cause long term mental and physical health concerns for the victims.
The Respect@Work Program will receive $20.5 million in funding to assist with prevention and response to workplace sexual harassment, this includes $5.3 million for primary prevention programs, sexual harassment research and other initiatives.
So, what does this all mean?
It is clear that the government has made a determined effort to address a multitude of women’s issues in the 2021 budget, with a significant amount of money being spent on many programs. While money will fund them, for a lot of the programs, money will not guarantee success. There needs to be a concerted effort to manage and rollout these programs well to ensure not just immediate success, but future viability.
If you are confused about all the detail and just want to know what the budget means for you or your business you can register below to join us live today for a Calm Tax Convo, where our experts will give a frank, no B.S take on what is in the budget.
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