It’s difficult to offer a sweeping statement on whether Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first Federal budget will be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for women.
As 51% of the population, the circumstances of individual women vary dramatically. So, even viewing the budget through a specific gender lens — as a number of interest groups did during the industry lock-up yesterday — offers a mixed view of just how much it will hurt ‘women’ as a whole.
As the Australian Council of Social Services puts it, it’s a budget that divides the nation between young and old, rich and poor. Sadly, it could very well be the women who can least afford it who may feel the pain the most. ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie says that the affect on young people is particularly disturbing — with those under 30 having to wait six month before receiving Newstart, and receiving it only for a period of six months before having to wait for it again.
Women earning more than $180,000 a year will be hit with an extra 2% ‘deficit levy’ (AKA a tax). However, as we well know, the proportion of women earning such an income compared to men is significantly low. And major changes to the Family Tax Benefit B will affect some women — with the family income cut-off for the benefit lowered from $150,000 to $100,000 and paid only to families with children under six. And got kids over 18? This budget will see school leavers having to wait six month before being eligible for Youth Allowance, they’ll also be hit with higher fees for tertiary education.
Women working in the public service face the very real threat of losing their jobs, with 16,500 Commonwealth public servant jobs to go and 70 federal agencies to be axed.
But it wasn’t all bad, according to YWCA CEO Dr Caroline Lambert. “There were a number of wins, I suspect that some of the wins were not so visible. They were about having held the line,” she says.
One such line was the Coaltion’s ongoing support to the previous government’s commitment to use Commonwealth grants to support pay equality in highly feminised sectors, according to Lambert, a move that followed the 2011 Fair Work Australia equal pay case for social and community service workers.
And women business owners may see some help with funding allocated to the Department of Finance to assist with accesssing government procurement arrangements. But as Marie Coleman writes today, the $2.8 million provision over four years may leave some struggling to “contain their excitement”.
Lambert noted a number of concerning issues for women’s economic status, and a few missed opportunities.
Raising the aged pension to 70 by the year 2035 will disproportionally hurt women, given women are already on average retiring with one third of the superannuation of men. Cancelling the Low Income Super Contribution — which saw the Labor government provide an additional $500 for workers earning less than $37,000 a year also stings women more than men, given women make up 2.1 million of the 3 million workers on such incomes. She also believes the introduction of the $7 co-payment of GP visits and a $5 increase for PBS co-payment will hurt.
As for a new initiative offering businesses a $10,000 grant for employing somebody over the age of 50, Lambert was disappointed to see it restricted only to those employees who’ve been on Newstart or the Disability Pension — missing the opportunity to offer support to older women returning to work after having kids.
All up, Lambert sees the budget as particularly problematic for young people. “It sets old versus young,” she says. “Its great to see an initiative to address aged discrimination in the population [with the $10,000 bonus for empoyers hiring those workers over 50] but if you’re an employer and you have a young and old person coming towards you, then you’re going to be more likely to higher that older person.”
So, good or bad? Depends on who your are and your current circumstances. What we will say is that it doesn’t seem particularly fair.
What do you think of the 2014 Federal Budget? Let us know below.