Jobs and Skills Summit: Women Central to Economic Vision
WEL congratulates the Government on the Jobs and Skills Summit.
We welcome the Joint Statement by the ACTU and Business Council of Australia setting out shared principles, including the need to boost women’s workforce participation through the expansion of Commonwealth paid parental leave to 26 weeks, with incentives to encourage shared responsibility by parents.
We are disappointed that the Summit outcomes failed to recognize the urgency of some of the most critical and immediately practical recommendations in relation to childcare, paid parental leave, restoration of single parents benefit and increases in Newstart.
It was inspiring finally to see women economists, feminist experts and advocates from unions, services and community activists centre stage during key sessions of the Summit.
Following years of the Morrison Government’s frequent irritability towards women critics, it is still something of a shock to have a very well versed feminist as Minister for Women. Katy Gallagher summed up the first morning in a series of tweets starting with What we are witnessing is a reframing of women’s equality as an economic imperative. We have the evidence- it’s time to do the work.
WEL and our partner women’s organisations were represented at the Summit by the head of the Equality Rights Alliance Hellen Dally-Fisher.
On our behalf Hellen Dally-Fisher contributed a segment on how more flexible working conditions in a secure working environment could support women’s workforce participation. Australian women spend twice as much time on unpaid care as men, including two thirds of the care for elderly relatives and people with a disability as well as household care and of course care for children.
Women set the Summit themes on the first day. Grattan Institute Economist Danielle Wood opened with a sweeping analysis of the economic challenges Australia faces and the role of women’s work force participation in meeting these challenges. Her address included the memorable observation that ‘if untapped women’s workforce participation was a massive ore deposit, we would have governments lining up to give tax concessions to get it out of the ground’.
Sam Mostyn, the newly minted Chair of the Australian Government’s Women’s Economic Council, spoke to the Chief Executive Women’s (CEW) submission to the Summit, outlining recommendations which WEL policy has long supported.
In particular we strongly endorse the call from CEW that the Australia Government adequately supports women into work through:
- Increasing Job Seeker payment rates to be consistent with pension levels with indexation.
- Reinstating the single parents’ supplement (abolished by the Gillard Government in 2013 for parents once their child turns 8).
- Bringing forward planned increases to the Child Care Subsidy to January 2023.
- Encouraging greater shared caring by parents, with ‘use it or lose it’ provisions.
- Extending the superannuation guarantee to the Commonwealth PPL scheme to help reduce the superannuation gap between women and men at retirement.
- Implementing commitments to all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work report, particularly a positive duty for employers under the Sex Discrimination Act; and a prohibition on sexual harassment in the Fair Work Act.
- Implementing commitments to the recommendations of the Set the Standard report.
- Implementing existing commitments to gender responsive budgeting and gender impact analysis for policy.
Some of the Summit outcomes have great potential to enhance the security and quality of work for women in the care and service industries, which as Danielle Wood pointed out in her opening address, now comprise 70% of Australia’s GDP.
WEL is the only feminist organisation to have consistently campaigned on increasing women’s access to TAFE and vocational education and training. We are excited to see the $1 billion one-year National Skills Agreement which will provide additional funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023, with a longer-term agreement that drives sector reform and supports women’s workforce participation to be negotiated.
We expect to see a gender breakdown for the 465,000 additional fee-free TAFE places, with 180,000 to be delivered next year. These initiatives should support women seeking qualifications and training in areas like childcare and aged care and assist in the creation of career pathways and improvements in pay and conditions.
Likewise the possibility of workers in small to medium private enterprises, such as child care and aged care, having access to negotiations for pay and conditions under single and multi-employer agreements could have a major impact on the pay and conditions in these industries.
Other Summit outcomes which will force Australian businesses and government to value women’s work and make women’s workforce participation a priority include:
- Strengthening existing reporting standards to require employers with 500 or more employees to commit to measurable targets to improve gender equality in their workplaces.
- Requiring businesses with 100 employees or more to publicly report their gender pay gap to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
- Requiring the Australian Public Service to report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and to set targets to improve gender equity in the public service .
- Strengthening the Respect@Work Council by giving business and unions a permanent seat at the table, along with government and civil society to support women’s safety and respect at work.
- Putting in place a Carer Friendly Workplace Framework which includes a self-assessment tool and learning modules, for businesses to be recognised as a carer friendly workplace.
WEL calls for postponement or delay of the Stage 3 2024 tax cuts
WEL wrote to the Treasurer on 5 August requesting that the 2024 tax cuts be reviewed or postponed as they will exacerbate the existing gender based income gap and diminish government revenue to improve services and initiatives to achieve gender equality.
The failure of the Jobs and Skills Summit to respond with practical and urgent actions on childcare, paid parental leave, restoration of single parents benefit and increases in Newstart on the justification that these were unaffordable, supports our letter’s claims that the cuts will impact negatively on Government measures to achieve gender equality.
WEL 50TH Anniversary Postponement
Members and supporters have received a separate notice announcing postponement of our 50th anniversary celebration, due to a clash with an event commemorating Prime Minister Gillard’s Misogyny speech.
WEL NSW Annual General Meeting – 10 December 2022
Our Annual General Meeting, starting at 3pm on Saturday 10 December at the WEL premises in Newtown will be followed by keynote speakers on current feminist challenges and future WEL campaigns. Join us to celebrate WEL’s 50th anniversary with a toast, good conversation, food and drinks.
We will send out a more detailed notice in the near future but please put this date in your diary!
Think about running for the WEL Executive for 2023? Let us know!
This is an exhilarating time to be a politically engaged and passionate feminist and we need you on our Executive.
WEL NSW Office Bearers and Ordinary members of the Executive Committee are elected each year at the AGM and we encourage interested women to nominate.
Women decide Elections & we NEED your support! Donate TodayWEL depends more than ever on the support of our members and followers, to continue our essential work of lobbying and campaigning to protect the rights of Australian women. Armed with policies setting out our demands, we run campaigns and lobby politicians and governments to make women’s equality central to policy making and implementation.
We need your ongoing support!
Consider becoming a member and be kept WEL-Informed with our regular newsletter or become a monthly supporter– all proceeds go towards WEL’s work gathering research, meeting with industry leaders, lobbying politicians, collaborating with other women’s organisations, holding policy roundtables and conducting political education programs for women in the community.
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