As we are on the brink of the Australian federal election my question is, how do we ensure our vote is one that considers women and girls? The problem that has been prevalent in australian society is the lack of effort when it comes to ensuring the economic security of women.
As a young woman and an advocate for women and girls rights at Plan International I believe there’s still a huge inequality when it comes to closing the gender pay gap between men and women in Australia. Women do so much for the stability of our economy and get paid less for working in heavily demanding industries (Nursing, Childcare and carers). In fact while there are approximately 6 million more women in employment more than ever before, the gender pay gap is at an all time high with women earning $239.80 a week less than men.
The disproportionate share of domestic work, unpaid care and lack of workplace flexibility and time out of work that women have to endure are key enablers of inequality. Women are the backbone of our society, who carry the burden for caring and ensuring the wellbeing of many Australian’s. Making sure that they are also able to sustain themselves financially is what will also ensure the stability of the Australian economy.
For our Government to combat this issue we need policies to address the availability, affordability and accessibility of childcare, changes to funded paid parental leave, to increase women in leadership roles across all sectors – but especially in Parliament. We also need action to address unequal representation across industries like STEM and the proportion of men in caring professions. Most of all we need action to address discrimination in work practices and action to reduce gender pay gaps.
When the federal budget was released on April 2 by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the Coalition made many promises about improving gender equality including increasing the ratio of women in key fields such as STEM and construction. They committed $1.8 million over three years for women in the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field and a $675,000 grant program in hopes to encourage the participation of young women working in the construction industry. These measures build on the women’s economic security statement that released in 2018.
Last year the Coalition also introduced a Childcare Subsidy plan that it claims to have saved families approximately $1,300. They have seen that within just 6 months of having this policy in place that out of pocket costs have dropped by 10%. Liberal claims that the reduction in subsidy families that make up to $67,000 are now able to get a subsidy rate of 85%.
Meanwhile, the Labor party have proposed to implement policy that would require large employers publicly report their pay gap and banning pay secrecy clauses. Labor also wants to give the Fair Work Commision the ability to order pay increases in female dominated industries including aged care, child care and disability services.
Labor has also committed to implementing $4 billion over four years to make childcare free for most low-income households, and cheaper for families that earn up to $174,000. The aim is that by reducing the cost of childcare for low income households, women would be able to return to work more easily. Labor says it aims to create a mechanism to deliver a pay raise for childcare workers.
Our votes have the power to determine a better future for women and girls.
I believe one of the reasons we haven’t reached a place of true equality is because in places of influence, there is not true equality with very few women in Parliament – an issue that I could dedicate another piece to entirely. For our nation to move forward, the voices of women must be heard and validated. In this year’s federal election it’s imperative that all Australians see the importance of women and girls having a seat at the table. If we want things to change and inequality to not coexist in Australian society perhaps voting for more female politicians will benefit all women of Australia.
We can support women and girls by doing our research on what the different parties are proposing in regards to women and girls. Young people can also help by having practical conversations with their communities and educating them about the policies that are already in place, and discussing what is being proposed by the parties.
I understand that people have their own voices and their own views on politics. What we must understand is that politicians sell dreams but very few fulfill them. It’s of great importance that you pay attention to what’s been done and what’s being said about women and girls ahead of this election.