COVID-19: Women’s Economic Security

24 Aug | '2020

It’s true, the economic security of women has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Unfortunately, business closures caused by health restrictions have occurred in industries where women make up a large proportion of that workforce. We should also acknowledge that many of the women who have maintained employment through the pandemic have been essential workers who are exposed to greater risks than most. We’re all conscious of the risks faced by our nurses, the majority of whom are women, and we thank them for what they are doing on the front line every day.

Pre-pandemic, the economic security of women in Australia was improving due to women’s efforts, improvements by employers and the government. The gender pay gap had closed to its lowest level on record of 13.9 per cent, a significant improvement from the gap of 17.4 per cent under those opposite. With 9,700 businesses in Moncrieff currently relying on JobKeeper, we know that JobKeeper is the reason that many women in vulnerable industries, like tourism, food services and retail, still have jobs.

The jobkeeper-employer connection is well understood, but we should take time to consider why it’s particularly important to women. Often women have negotiated arrangements in the workplace, at home with their family and in their community activities to carefully balance their commitments. When a woman loses her job, even if she’s fortunate enough to find another, she then faces the often difficult process of re-harmonising the many aspects of her life. That’s why JobKeeper is about so much more than money to pay bills; it’s given many women in Moncrieff a degree of stability that’s even more important in this time of crisis.

The government knows that child care is important for the workforce participation of women and has acted to support the childcare sector to support the workforce participation of women during the pandemic. For example, since July, families with reduced activity due to COVID-19 have been able to access 100 hours of subsidised child care per fortnight up until 4 October 2020 and higher subsidies where eligible.

The good women of Moncrieff will also benefit from the government’s continued implementation of our $158.3 million women’s economic security plan that the member for Higgins just mentioned. This government was the first to introduce this statement in 2018. The plan will be updated this year, and I’ll be taking a keen interest in the benefits of the plan update for the women and the girls of the central Gold Coast. The programs from the package will make a significant difference to many women. For example, the Mid-Career Checkpoint program, targeted at women 30 to 45, will support up to 40,000 Australians looking to return to work after spending time caring for others.

Moncrieff is the small business engine room of the Gold Coast, so I expect that another of the programs, Boosting Female Founders Initiative, will be of great interest to many women in Moncrieff. By investing $18 million over three years to provide access to capital for women engaging in innovative entrepreneurship, the government is helping to address the greater difficulty female start-up founders experience when seeking to raise venture capital. I say to entrepreneurial women outside the Gold Coast: consider starting or continuing your entrepreneurial journey on the Gold Coast, where we’re already re-imagining the future. Last week, as the chair of the City Heart task force, I brought together over 100 bright minds, creating a platform via the reimagined Gold Coast forum, to shape the future of jobs, skills and industry in our beautiful city. Women of Australia, the entrepreneurial spirit of the Gold Coast will welcome your business.

Superannuation is a key concern for the economic security of women. The compulsory superannuation system has needed reform to better meet the needs of women. Problems have included the impact of the gender pay gap and the design of a system being premised on a continuous work history for paid work. The government has introduced measures to support the retirement savings of women, including the low-income superannuation tax offset, LISTO. Since 1 July 2017, about 1.9 million women have benefitted from the offset, delivering an over $500 million improvement to the economic security of women to date from that measure alone. Other tangible measures by our government include the co-contribution scheme, the introduction of catch-up concessional contributions and the Protecting Your Super package. But Labor wants to remove concessional catch-up contributions, threatening to remove the opportunity for women to catch-up on their superannuation contributions after taking a break from the workforce. This is more important now than ever.

By guiding the economy through this crisis, delivering economic lifelines to women through tangible supportive measures, workforce participation and their retirement savings, the Morrison government is planning and delivering for the economic security of Australian women.

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