IMF's forecasts confirm our Budget should have done more for women

IMF’s latest forecasts confirm our Budget should have done more for women


The International Monetary Fund released its latest world economic outlook on Tuesday and governments across the world are paying attention. There’s good news and bad news.

On the positive side, the report noted that we should expect a slightly less severe recession than first predicted a few months ago. This is due to the faster re-emergence from lockdowns through May and June. The latest figures show global growth down 4.4 percent and recuperation next year with global growth up by 5.2 percent. The report confirms our own budget’s highly optimistic assessment that growth will rebound in 2021 after falling 3.7 percent this year.

The bad news? It encouraged policies that would target women and young people to avoid “widening inequality” due to the COVID-19 recession.

Though lockdowns may help the economic recovery by reducing the spread of coronavirus infections, they may harm women and young people disproportionately. And as our Editor Tarla Lambert wrote last week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s decision to give a “meagre” $240 million to support women hardest hit by the crisis is “a whole lot of token nothingness,” and a “shameful omission” of women and our needs. 

There’s been widespread criticism of the Morrison government’s budget, which barely contains any gender-specific measures in its package. The IMF’s report reveals data sourced from anonymised mobile phones that lockdowns have a greater effect on women’s mobility than on men’s, and on younger people than on older workers.

“Women tended to suffer from job losses in contact-intensive sectors such as retail, tourism and hospitality, and were left to do more caring for children when schools closed,” the report claimed.

The report also called for “targeted policy intervention … to protect the employment prospects of women and younger cohorts and prevent a widening of income inequality” such as higher unemployment benefits for vulnerable categories and paid leave for parents.”

A message that our Treasurer needs to hear clearer? As Georgie Dent said earlier this week, “We know that the benefits to children of giving them access to high quality care and education is in and of itself enough. We should be doing it just for that. But we also know that the economic benefits are there. We know that to genuinely reduce gender inequality this is a fundamental investment we need to make.” 

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