Victoria’s first gender-responsive budget has seen some big investment initiatives announced aimed at improving outcomes for women, totalling approximately $940 million.
The state became the first in Australia to offer gender-responsive budgeting in 2021, with this week’s budget the first to incorporate the initiative. For the first time, a gender lens has been applied to investment decisions, noting the impact on all Victorians.
That gender lens has seen funding allocated that target female-dominated workforces, like healthcare, where $58 million has been announced to support new nursing positions.
There has also been an investment of $131 million allocated towards making kindergarten available to all four-year-olds.
And in the community sector, $90 million has been allocated to help address job insecurity created by short-term government contracts.
Meanwhile, $15 million has been allocated to strengthen the health, wellbeing, and social and economic outcomes of LGBTIQ+ Victorians, including the continuation of the LGBTIQ+ Grants Program.
Dr Leonora Risse from RMIT University, described the state budget as “historically significant”, noting that Victoria is the first and only jurisdiction in Australia to formally adopt Gender-Responsive Budgeting as part of its policymaking process.
And although these latest funding announcements will take some time to take effect and help narrow gender gaps, they do come at a time that is certainly needed for Victorian women, who have been the hardest in the country to be impacted by the pandemic.
“This focus on gender equality is needed in light of the heavy toll that the pandemic took on women’s economic opportunities. The budget allocates $940 million towards initiatives to improve outcomes for women, including a strong focus on women’s health and tackling family violence,” said Risse.
“This budget illustrates how gender-responsive budgeting is now equipping the Victorian government to identify how economic policies can benefit men more than women, and redesign initiatives to reduce these inequities.”
She notes that Victorian women still have a higher unemployment rate than men, despite the women’s workforce participation rate experiencing a strong bounce back.
“Women’s unemployment in Victoria is now at 4.2 per cent, after peaking at 8.6 per cent during the worst of the pandemic. But it still sits higher than men’s unemployment at 3.9 per cent.
“And women’s under-employment in Victoria – these are workers who have a job but are looking for more hours – is still high at 7.0 per cent, compared to just 4.6 per cent for men.
“Overall the narrative of this budget prioritises investment in people and human services. This is a distinct shift from the era of big infrastructure announcements that have typically dominated budgets in the past.”