The federal budget is a disaster for women from all walks of life, according to a new analysis of its financial impact.
The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) has compiled a 40-page financial analysis of how budget measures - ranging from income support cuts to childcare and education fee hikes - will disproportionately affect women.
Foundation chair Marie Coleman also noted that last week’s budget was the first since 1984 not to include a Women’s Budget Statement – which was introduced as an important equity measure to single out initiatives targeting women.
The Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash said, “There will not be a Women’s Budget Statement this year. The Government prepared a small number of budget statements and highlights which focused on key areas of reform which are pivotal to all Australian’s, regardless of gender.”
Senator Cash said that “over time the Women’s Budget Statement has changed in length and purpose and in recent years was effectively a public relations document published after the release of the budget papers.”
But Ms Coleman said this reduced transparency in federal government reporting and accountability was disturbing.
Using a voluntary group of 12 academics, economists and social welfare experts including the University of Sydney Business School’s Professor Marian Baird, Curtin Law School Associate Professor Helen Hodgson and Equity Economics director Amanda Robbins, the foundation has calculated the following budget cuts:
Ø An unemployed single mother with one eight-year-old child loses $54 per week or 12 per cent their disposable income.
Ø Single mothers earning around two-thirds of the average wage lose between 5.6 per cent and 7 per cent of their disposable income.
Ø A single-income couple with two school-age children and average earnings loses $82 a week or 6 per cent of their disposable income.
Ø An unemployed 23-year-old female loses $47 a week or 18 per cent of her disposable income.
Ø For employed women using Family Day Care an immediate price rise in the order of $30+ per week per child is likely.
Ø The increase in child care fees for parents on JET (Jobs, Education & Training) Child Care Fee Assistance and reduction in hours of JET-subsidised care available will discourage participation in work and training.
Ms Coleman said “this is a budget that will hurt practically every woman – whether a single parent, unemployed, in the workforce, studying or a homemaker. Very few will remain unscathed.”
“And it’s not just women who will pay the price…These issues all feed into declining workforce productivity and the looming crisis around women’s retirement savings. Women in the 21st century are a major contributor to the broader economy and these facts simply cannot be overlooked.
The Foundation has made a number of recommendations including calling on the Government to defer the savings measures impacting on the cost of child care until after consideration of the Productivity Commission report on child care.
It has called on the government to repeal the Low Income Superannuation Contribution and deferral of increases in the superannuation guarantee rate.
The foundation also noted the proposed Medicare co-payment for GPs would place a greater burden on low-income women who accessed health services more regularly than men.
“Women will pick up more of the cost and stress as we take the role of 'health manager’ for our families. We are the ones who take kids and older relatives to the GP, to the chemist for prescriptions and for diagnostic imaging and pathology,” the report stated.
“So, the co-payments proposed are a considerable barrier to affordable healthcare and erode the universal healthcare we all value. The proposed review of Disability Support Pension recipients under 35 will disproportionately affect women, while the Compulsory Participation Requirement will affect women and men with disabilities equally negatively.”
Moves to deregulate the higher education market which force university students to pay more of their income back at a lower wage bracket could exclude women from achieving a tertiary degree.
Even cuts to health and education across the states and territories would have a greater impact on women who were more likely to be employed across those sectors.
“Virtually every woman in the country - but particularly poorer and disadvantaged women - are a casualty of this abhorrent budget. Despite the rhetoric emanating from the corridors of power in Canberra, the country is not broke,” Ms Coleman said.
“The NFAW does not see an economic crisis. What we do see is a gross imbalance. Women, particularly poor women, are doing the heavy lifting and that is neither fair or equitable,” she said.