In 2014 during the G20 in Brisbane, Australia committed to reducing our workforce participation gender gap by 25% by 2025.
In 2017, we’re still not seeing much work on this commitment. We’re not even hearing much talk about it.
What we are seeing is a lot of confusion regarding who is actually responsible for it, an Office for Women that doesn’t seem to have much capability in managing it, and a Minister for Women who doesn’t appear particularly interested in it.
In the same year that we made that commitment, under Tony Abbott’s watch in 2014 and with a promise to improve women’s workforce participation through a number of measures (including by addressing our tax and transfer system), we also ended a thirty year tradition of releasing a women’s impact statement with the Federal Budget.
That there should be enough to highlight the hypocrisy of the 2025 commitment. It’s easy to make big, bold and distant promises on the world stage, not quite as easy to consistently chip away at such promises in order to make their future ambitions an actual reality. After all, who cares about what happens in the year 2025 when you’ve got next week’s poll to consider, party infighting to negotiate, and your grasp on power and leadership to manage.
Failing to measure the budget’s impact on women makes it very, very difficult to see how it ultimately helps or hinders gender equality. This is especially true when it comes to tax and superannuation reform.
Thankfully, the National Foundation for Australian Women has done its own analysis, looking at the cumulative impact on women of Malcolm Turnbull’s recently released 2017/18 Budget
The results aren’t good. As Georgie Dent reported last week, the analysis found the measures outlined in the budget could hit lower income earning women with an effective 100% marginal tax rate, due to the stacking together of changes.
But our government doesn’t appear to have considered such implications.
When our Minister for Women Michaelia Cash along with the Office For Women were asked about the NFAW report in Senate estimates a week ago, they indicated little had been on done on preempting some of the broader implications of the 2017/18 budget on certain groups of women. They said addressing the impact of the tax and transfers system, as we had promised to do, would “be a matter for treasury”.
Senator Cash noted they have “certainly looked across the board and in all portfolios in terms of how each portfolio can contribute to meeting the G20 target,” indicating the work is being done by treasury. “You can put the questions to treasury,” she said. Still, the Senator herself doesn’t appear to have been briefed on the budget’s impact on women prior to it being released.
But then yesterday again in Senate Estimates, a Treasury official conceded that he didn’t believe work had started on analysing the impact of our tax system on women — again as we promised to do under that G20 commitment.
Deputy secretary of Treasury’s fiscal group, Michael Brennan, said he was not aware if the Office for Women had asked Treasury to look at the impact of the 2017 budget on marginal tax rates. “I’m not aware that we’ve done anything for this particular budget,” he said.
Asked more specifically about a strategy to boost women’s workforce participation by examining the gender implications of the tax and transfer system, Brennan said that as far as he’s aware “that’s not underway”.
Last week Senator Cash said “we are currently in the process of finalising the broader G20 strategy.”
We look forward to hearing what that actually is. But once again, we don’t hold much hope.