The Victorian budget has acknowledged the gendered impacts of the recession and taken some deliberate steps to help address the reality of women’s economic insecurity in the state.
The Victorian government has committed $250 million to subsidise the wages of at least 10,000 workers. More than half of this funding, $150 million, will go directly towards employing women, and $50 million of this will go to women over the age of 45 – a recognition of the additional challenges they face in securing jobs. Overall, the $150 million is expected to create 6950 jobs for women.
There are other specific measures that target women in the budget, including the creation of 4100 jobs for tutors in Victorian schools in 2021, an estimated 80 per cent of these jobs are expected to be filled by women.
$10 million has been committed to supporting female entrepreneurship, with the creation of an innovation fund that will see the government partner with angel investors to help women access capital.
There is a focus on getting more women into the male-dominated construction industry, with $5 million in funding for the Women in Construction Program, as well as new measures to encourage women into apprenticeships.
Up to 80,000 new places at TAFE will be created, with 60,000 of these places being free courses in female-dominated areas like health and community and disability services.
Social and affordable housing is also a major focus of the budget, with $5.3 billion dedicated to construct 12,000 new dwellings. The availability of long-term social and affordable housing will support families, including those who are survivors of family violence. There is $9.7 million in funding for family violence prevention and early intervention for migrant and refugee communities.
The Victorian government will also make kinder free next year, which will save families around $2000 per child, and there will be an $81 million expansion of before and after school care, that will help in reducing out-of-pocket costs for families and potentially help boost female workforce participation.
“The pandemic has confirmed what we knew all along – women face an uphill battle every day in the workforce. It’s time it changed,” Victorian Minister for Women, Gabrielle Williams said.
“Putting women at the heart of our recovery from coronavirus will mean we recover stronger and faster as a community.”
$13 million has been pledged to continue to the implementation of the government’s Gender Equality Act, which works to ensure the public sector develops action plans and publishes progress reports on gender equality. The funds will go towards establishing the Office of the Gender Equality Commissioner, as well as the development of a reporting platform to facilitate the submission of action plans and progress reports.
Tanja Kovac, CEO of Gender Equity Victoria, said it was good to see the Victorian government acknowledge the “she-cession” and some of the measures for women are a start on a very long road to a gender equal economic recovery.
Kovac also noted that a Gender Equality Budget Group – a group of experts that would provide independent advice to the treasury on gender responive budgeting – had been overlooked.
“It’s going to take more than one budget cycle to correct the impact of COVID19 on women’s economic insecurity. There are promising signs that women are being prioritised at a State level, but the pandemic has exacerbated entrenched issues that will need devoted resources over several budgets,” Kovac said.
“Though we can see an improvement in the gendered economic analysis in the Budget’s Strategy and Outlook, we are disappointed to see that’s the Gender Equality Budget Group has been overlooked by Treasury for investment.
“$1.05M was a small price to pay for delivering economic innovations from gender economic experts across Australia. We will continue to advocate for improvements in gendered economic reporting and strategies to address women’s economic insecurity.”