Budget 2020-21, far from gender responsive budgeting

In the lead up to Budget 2020-21, there were many constructive calls for a gender responsive budget with Covid19 worsening gender inequality. Over 100 organisations committed to gender equity and women across Victoria made a joint statement calling for State and Federal Governments to recognise the gendered impacts of COVID-19. 

In his 2020-21 Budget speech on 6 October 2020, Treasurer Frydenberg said, “This Budget includes our second Women’s Economic Security Statement, with $240 million in measures and programs to support: New cadetships and apprenticeships for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; Job creation and entrepreneurialism, and Women’s safety at work and at home. The 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statement will create more opportunities and choices for women, not just for the recovery but for generations ahead.”

However, only $240 million was allocated for ‘women’s economic security’ for the next 4 years. Compared to the total budget expenditure of $670 Billion this is only a meagre 1% of expenditure.

Covid 19 has been highly gendered in its impact on women. With systemic and structural inequities against women and girls in Australia evident for decades, this Budget is a hugely missed opportunity of the government’s investment in a roadmap towards a gender equal recovery and to address gender inequities in our economy and society.

The inadequacy of this Budget to address women’s concerns was echoed by the extensive criticism that followed.

Women’s Agenda Georgie Dent: “So how much, then, might you expect out of roughly $500 billion would be allocated to policies and initiatives designed to support the capacity of women to participate in paid work? To address the systemic and entrenched disadvantages that impede women from achieving financial security? The woefully inadequate and truly shameful number is $240 million. As many clever economists quickly calculated on Tuesday night that amounts to one third of one percent of the entire budget. 0.038% to 51 percent of the population. And that’s not even the worst of it. The $240 million is to be spent over five years. It amounts to $40 per female worker, or $8 a year, until 2025. Consider that $26 billion is being allocated to allowing businesses to write off the value of assets. Or that $250 million is being spent on recycling. Or $61 million is being allocated to school chaplains. Yet women, who comprise slightly more than half the population, who have carried Australia through this pandemic and have borne the brunt of the adverse financial implications get 0.0385% of its spend.”

As the criticism grew, Kristine Zwica of The Age and Women’s Agenda reported that the PM’s office said “no credible women” were criticising the budget in this way.

It was extremely concerning to see that women offering Budget 2020-21 analysis, following concrete prebudget recommendations are dismissed as not being #crediblewomen. Not offering an effective roadmap for women’s economic & social security showed the government’s failure to listen and credibly address the gender impact of Covid-19.

The hashtag #CredibleWomen which continues to trend with more than 15,000 #CredibleWomen hashtags on Twitter has captured the outrage of women all over Australia at not being heard and being devalued in their assessment of how this Budget is a missed opportunity on many critical fronts, especially the need for free childcare, a crucial step to assist women get back to work and towards achieving gender equity in the workplace and society.

It is time that the government adopts Gender Responsive Budgeting so that the policy development process is not gender neutral but factors in differential impacts of all policies across genders. A comprehensive ongoing gender analysis will enable the achievement of gender equality goals in Australia. Fortunately there are many credible expert women and women’s organisations who can assist with this, as we have in the lead up to this budget.

Gender Equity Victoria (GEN VIC), the Victorian peak body for gender equity, women’s health and the prevention of violence against women, in partnership with Per Capita in their 2019 Submission for the Victorian Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee to inform the 2019 Inquiry into Gender Responsive Budgeting, details how this global best practice can be re-introduced and reminds us that Australia was once a global pioneer of gender responsive budgeting.

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