Monday, 22 May 2017

A gender lens on the 2017-18 Budget exposes its class-ridden, misogynistic bottom line

In 2014 the Abbott Government ceased the thirty year-old federal government practice of releasing a Women's Budget Statement.

The National Foundation for Australian Women stepped in to fill the gap since then and this month has released its 97-page review of the Turnbull Government’s 2017-18 Budget, Gender lens on the Budget.

This budget review contains little that is unequivocally positive for women and summarises the bad news thus:

Women are overrepresented at lower income levels. Changes to government benefits and increases in taxes have a disproportionate effect on women. ATO statistics recently released show the median income for women was $47,125 in 2014-15, while for men the amount was $61,711.
Effective marginal taxation rates (EMTRs) measure the proportion of each extra dollar of earnings that is lost to both income tax increases and decreases in government benefits (for example, Parenting Payment, Family Tax Benefit, the Age Pension etc).
The increase in the Medicare Levy will affect those on incomes greater than $21,644. For those with eligible children, FTB A payment rates are frozen for two years. Those who pay child care fees will continue to face high EMTRs. University graduates will start repaying loans when they reach income levels of $42,000 per year.
These changes hit those on earning well below the average wage, and are particularly harsh for women. Combined, these changes could lead to effective marginal tax rates of possibly 100% or higher for some women, particularly as Family Tax Benefit Part A begins to decrease at $51,903. Graduates caught between these policies will experience considerable financial stress; graduates earning $51,000, most of whom are likely to be women, will have less disposable income than someone earning $32,000. Changes to penalty rates may also have a significant impact on some graduates if they are extended to the aged and health care sectors as well as the childcare sector.
The point to note is not just the harsh effects on low income women but also that it is not discussed in the Budget papers, with no modelling of the exact EMTRs for different groups of women provided. The way to improve incomes for most women is not to cut taxes but through improved welfare, social investments and increased wages (for example, by taking real action against the spread of precarious low paid work or by opposing cuts to penalty rates). Tax cuts, particularly those for top income earners, lower revenue at a time when investment is needed in public services and social infrastructure. ATO statistics show that in 2013-14 only 17% of women had taxable incomes greater than $80,000. This tax reduction has led to an increase in gender inequality.
Welfare payments to the unemployed are a small part of total welfare outlays. However, as ACOSS points out, the 2014 demonising of recipients continues. Many groups argue for an increase in the value of the Newstart payment, and an increase in Commonwealth rent assistance. What we have instead is ineffectual drug testing, harsh compliance penalties and expanded income management. However, for sole parents there will be a new verification process that is especially demeaning.
There were no measures designed to specifically address gender inequality and the related entrenched financial vulnerability of women….
This Budget fails to address major challenges facing young women in Australia, and has no measures to improve financial, job or housing security for this cohort.
Youth unemployment is at 13.5% of the youth labour force, which is the highest rate in 40 years, and many young people are underemployed (18% of young people in the labour force) (Brotherhood of St Laurence, 2017, 3). Women aged 20-24 have a much higher rate of underemployment than men of the same age (Burgess, 2017). The job market is increasingly casualised and insecure, and as young people have little or no working experience they are more likely than other groups to work in nonpermanent jobs (Brotherhood of St Laurence, 2017, 4). There is nothing in this Budget to address the unemployment or underemployment that young people experience, and which have implications for the economic security of young women…..
The enhanced residency requirements for claimants of the Age Pension and the Disability Support Pension (DSP) from 1 July 2018 will require claimants to have 15 years of continuous Australian residence before being eligible to receive the Age Pension or DSP unless they have:
* 10 years’ continuous Australian residence, with five years of this residence being during their working life (16 years to Age Pension age); or
* 10 years’ continuous Australian residence, without having received an activity tested income support payment for a cumulative period of five years.
Approximately 40% of older Australians are born overseas and the majority of these are women (AIHW 2007, 4). Within CALD communities, as with the broader population, women are more likely to require age pension support because they have less superannuation (from lower paid jobs and from fewer years working). Women are therefore more vulnerable to economic insecurity and should not be punished in old age for being migrants or for not being able to meet the 5 cumulative years of no income support payments during the requisite 15 years’ continuous residency. CALD women are more likely to experience periods of income support due to their family care responsibilities and should not be punished for this.  [my yellow/red highlighting]

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