Still work to do to improve women’s economic security

The much-anticipated Women's Budget Statement released this week has generally been welcomed but for some funders working in the gender space, there is still plenty of scope for structural change and sustainable, multi-year funding to improve women’s health, safety and economic security.

The much-anticipated Women's Budget Statement released this week has generally been welcomed but for some funders working in the gender space, there is still plenty of scope for structural change and sustainable, multi-year funding to improve women’s health, safety and economic security.

 

The Statement aims to boost “economic security by increasing women’s workforce participation, reducing barriers to women working in the paid workforce, and to assisting women to build a financially secure future.” However, many social businesses have been tackling the challenge of increasing workforce participation for women before the Federal Government set its recent sub-five per cent unemployment target.

Last week, the Ecstra Foundation announced $2.1 million in new funding to organisations boosting women’s employment opportunities and economic security.

Ecstra CEO and Philanthropy Australia board member Caroline Stewart said: “COVID-19 has magnified pre-existing issues of financial inequality and insecurity for many women, including the burden of unpaid work and caring responsibilities, low paid and casualised work and financial stress.’’

The new grants are an initiative of the Women’s Economic Security Project, which Ecstra launched to support micro enterprises, small business accelerators, charities and social enterprises working with survivors of domestic abuse, young women in regional areas, indigenous women, refuges and migrant communities.

The impetus behind the Women’s Economic Security Project was to support practical programs and pragmatic policy responses to these entrenched gender issues even as the Australian economic recovery gathers pace. With initial funding from the federal government, it aims to help more women build a secure financial future.

“For us, listening to, and learning from the insights from frontline organisations has helped frame our philanthropic support of public policy approaches to women’s economic security,’’ Caroline says.

This includes being the principal supporter of the Grattan Institute report Women’s Work: The impact of the COVID crisis on Australian women, which was released last month, and a multi-year partnership with ACOSS focused on building their already extensive expertise in addressing the drivers of gender inequality and inter-generational poverty. 

“The events of this past six months really served as a rallying call and amplified the voices of many organisations who have been working on creating a fairer economic system in Australia."

A range of research and advocacy work, including the support of peak bodies such as the Business Council of Australia, Chief Executive Women and Australians Investing in Women, has seen united calls to invest in the care economy - childcare, after school care through to age care.

This focus has been reflected in some Budget measures – most clearly in the $1.7b childcare subsidy and investments in training and upskilling workers in the care economy.

The Women’s Budget Statement stated that almost half of all women looking for more work said care responsibilities stopped them from starting a new role. The Budget’s proposed changes are forecast to help 250,000 families and add 300,000 hours worked a week to the economy. This is predicted to boost GDP by up to $1.5 billion.

“These measures are a welcome step, but further work needs to be done to fairly remunerate and build sustainable employment pathways for those dedicated to caring for our most vulnerable citizens.”

The new grants announced last week support social enterprises and charities to design innovative solutions to long standing issues of gender inequality. According to Ecstra, the approaches are practical, community based, and include the lived experience of women facing the day-to-day realities of economic insecurity.”

Each grant will integrate tailored financial capability and personalised support into the program delivery. “The ultimate aim is to improve women’s access to reliable income, financial products and services, to grow their financial confidence and to help more women build a secure future,” Caroline says.

The Women’s Economic Security Project grants have been awarded to: Code Like a Girl (National); First Australians Capital (NSW, VIC, SA); Karrkad Kanjdji Trust (NT); Mettle Women (WA); Multicultural Youth (SA); SisterWorks (VIC); The Difference Incubator (VIC); The Social Outfit (NSW); Two Good Foundation (NSW).

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