Australia Stepping Down the Gender Equality Ladder: How the Budget Prioritises Men Over women

Gouri Goyal


October 25th, 2020

In this article, Gouri Goyal investigates the underlying issues regarding gender inequality and how that connects to this year’s federal budget.

Countries climb up the ladder, but Australia stepped down. In the year 2006, Australia ranked 15th on a global index measuring gender equality but it fell to rank 35th in 2017 [1].

Women account for 50.7% of the total population in Australia. Moreover, women comprise around 47% of the total employees in Australia, although the pay is not proportionate to the employment ratio. Since the past two decades, the gender “pay gap” is between 15 to 19%. Specifically, on average a woman earns $251.20 less than man every week. If an Australian woman has to earn the same pay as a man, she has to work extra for 56 days to get the same amount [1]

It is heart-wrenching to see that the inequality persists even after attaining the age of retirement. This might be because of the high concentration of women in low-paid industries and insecure work. Whereas the concentration of women in leadership roles in both the private and public sector are far less than men. Therefore, on average, a woman in Australia reaches her retirement age with $113,660 less superannuation than an average male. As a result, an elderly woman in Australia is more prone to poverty and dependent on the Age Pension compared to an elderly man [1].

This coronavirus pandemic has increased the overall unemployment rate, but a higher percentage of women have lost their jobs. 8.1% of women have recorded their job loss whereas the male employment fell by 6.2% [2]. This data represents the higher participation of women in industries that are more likely to be affected by the pandemic, such as the hospitality and arts and recreation industry. It is recorded that Victoria has the largest number of unemployed women in its history due to this pandemic [3].

The JobKeeper policy announced on 30th March 2020 to reduce the spiked unemployment rate due to pandemic. But the women in Australia are not much benefitted by the policy. The slashing off the JobKeeper subsidy for childcare workers on 12th July 2020 is said to be a “double whammy” for women as both the female workers and the mothers are the most affected [4]. Moreover, the reduced payment of $750 to people working 20 hours a week or less has again affected the majority of women because the high participation of women as casual labor. 22% of the women in Jobkeeper worked less than for 20 hours a week whereas 10.6% of the men worked less than for 20 hours [5].

The budget announced on 6th October 2020 has not allocated sufficient funds to cover the downfall in women employment. Whereas the male-dominating sectors which are allotted with a large sum of funding are the construction, energy and manufacturing, also depicted from the figure 1 [6]. The service sector, which is one of the most affected sectors due to the nature of pandemic has been allotted with nothing. Except for the healthcare, the other female dominating services like administration, hospitality have experienced a significant slump. Therefore, a decent share of funds should have been allocated to these sectors. It would have been a step towards women empowerment.

For more details, the reader is referred to [6, Fig. 1].

The budget includes $240 million funding for females to increase female participation in the male dominating industry, some grants are allocated for encouraging female entrepreneurship and for fostering women to pursue a career in the STEM industry. But this allocation does not seem to deal with the immediate problem of job loss due to pandemic. Hence, this might result in deepening of the prevailing gender inequality in the country.

• References

[1] Australian Human Rights Commission, Face the facts: Gender Equality 2018. Available

[2] M. Janda, “Almost a millions Australians out of work due to coronavirus; RBA tips economy to take 10pc hit,” ABC News, Available

[3] “The Impact of COVID-19 on Women and Work in Victoria,” THE MCKELL INSTITUE, Available

[4] L. Dean, “ ‘Double whammy’: JobKeeper policy tripping up women twice,” Yahoo Finance, Available

[5] Z. Zaczek, “Australia’s JobKeeper losers: The people mosy likely to lose out when wage subsidy is slashed- and it’s bad news for women,” Mail online, Available

[6] D. Wood, K. Griffiths and T. Crowley, “Budget 2020: high-vis, narrow vision,” Grattan Institute, Available

The views expressed within this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the ESSA Committee or the Society's sponsors. Use of any content from this article should clearly attribute the work to the author and not to ESSA or its sponsors.

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