(Sydney) 22 June 2020 –
Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) calls on all governments to urgently re-calibrate pandemic recovery plans to include a gender lens, starting with reversing the shortsighted decision to scrap the supports for early childhood learning and care (ECL&C) temporarily installed during the pandemic. WEL today released the WEL view on Government’s Pandemic Response, joining social and economic experts to lobby governments to correct their course immediately.

WEL NSW executive member, Dr Mary O’Sullivan, urged the Australian Government to take a social infrastructure investment recovery position that prioritises social and economic investment that delivers benefits to the community as a whole and supports women’s employment.

Dr O’Sullivan said, “If we are facing a recession like no other, with women’s employment and financial security seriously hit, why wouldn’t you prioritise a social infrastructure recovery plan that supports women’s employment and carries multiple and proven long-term benefits for children and for women’s safety and security. Why would you willfully ignore an opportunity to reap the financial and social benefits of investing in children and in women’s participation in the workforce so that all Australians can equally participate in the road to economic recovery

“Many Australians were shocked by the Prime Minister and Education Minister’s June 8 announcement to cut support for the early childhood learning and care industry through JobKeeper and income subsidies allowing fee free services on July 12.” 

“The Prime Minister provided no convincing rationale for the decision to target childcare as the first industry to remove from JobKeeper. This time neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for Education acknowledged - as they had when they announced ‘free’ childcare on April 2 - that early childhood learning and care workers were ‘essential’ and ‘vital’ to Australia’s COVID-19 effort.

“It beggars belief that the Government would knowingly take a decision to reverse the supports they have provided the early childhood learning and care industry during the COVID-19 response. Despite the transition arrangements put in place until September, ripping up these sensible and effective changes is likely to have an immediate impact on children –especially disadvantaged children and on women’s participation in the workforce.

“We have a moment in history to rebalance our social and economic objectives, with government playing a leading role through COVID-19 recovery led investments and reforms. Women are first serious casualties of the recession, along with young people and it is likely to have an inter-generational impact.”

A social infrastructure led recovery should:

  1. Prioritise investment in employment incentives for the caring industries, most of whom have large numbers of women within the workforce
  2. Commit to build a truly universal early childhood learning and care system for all Australians by maintaining the Jobkeeper supports for 12 months, permanently abolishing the activity test and beginning a transition through provisions in the 2020 and 2O21 budgets to subsiding up to 95% of childcare costs for parents.
  3. Prioritise and build social housing for women