She works hard for the money, so you better treat her ri-i-ight

So. There was a Budget.

Yep, that’s what it looks like.

Mostly, the media focus was on the respective paper shuffling of the major parties. And there was that ridiculous headline. If it was anything more than a headline, I would be totally thrilled.

But in amongst it all, for those of you who are curious, there was some good analysis. We forgive you if you missed it amongst the flotsam, and in fact, we’ve collected some of it here for you. There are two pieces from feminist stalwarts, Marie Coleman and our very own Eva Cox. We’re republishing those here in full – see below.

There is also a great piece on Close the Gap by Kayt Davies at The Conversation.

For other media and analysis, it’s worth checking out:

Honestly, I struggled to find good comment and analysis on funding for migrant, NESB, and Indigenous programs and services. This may be because I was looking in the wrong places, or because not enough was written about these issues. I’ll be absolutely stoked if you leave resources in the comments if you have them, and I’ll update this post accordingly.

Without further ado:

If Labor’s serious about fairness, it should reconsider welfare policies
by Eva Cox, originally published in Crikey

Eva Cox

One of the most obvious inconsistencies in the budget was the government’s claims for an egalitarian redistribution approach while proposing $60 per week income cut for 100,000 sole parents. On Meet the Press on Sunday, Anthony Albanese repeatedly ducked a why-do-that question by talking about finding them paid jobs. This suggests the government assumes cutting already low incomes makes people more likely to find jobs and that jobs are there.

One of the difficulties faced by a Labor government is trying to convince voters that it does have clear Labor values. Its mantra of being there for working families mixes with occasional accusations that Abbott, etc, are pro-rich, does not add up to fairness for all. The underlying message of the new payments illustrates its confused beliefs that voters are for sale to the higher bidder and voters will appreciate fairness and show loyalty.

However, this blatant marketing strategy was already undermined by the government’s failure to include a badly needed rise for the inadequate Newstart payments. This will be the lower payment for sole parents. The ALP’s advisers’ cynical strategy assumes that “working families” would share their views on non-employed (bludgers). Even though the cuts did not get high media coverage, there was enough for the Robin Hood image to be criticised by welfare advocates and even many of its own backbenchers.

The ALP has developed some extraordinary authoritarian, punitive policies in the social areas and the budget provisions continue the conservative tendencies. Some familiarity with its own data would show the existing Newstart recipients have few chances of finding paid work and the numbers will soon swell with the extra sole parents and the somewhat disabled victims of new standards.

The government operates under the false assumption that there are available jobs for the unemployed who are not prepared to take them. Therefore, the government can pressure them by low income and further conditionality into services that reluctant or untrained Newstart recipients need. The government claims are that the unemployment problem is in the supply side of the equation so starving them into compliance is for their own good.

Not only is this collection of attitudes reminiscent of the 19th-century Poor Laws approach, it also fails dismally to understand the demands of the labour market or the prejudices of many of its decision makers. Current unemployment rates are at least as much the fault of the demand side of the equation, i.e. the number and types of jobs on offer and the decision makers as the supply side. The government’s own figures show that most of the demand is for recent experience, youth, mobility and specific qualifications.

The government ignores its own website, which shows what jobs are available and who is officially job hunting. The figures barely overlap as demand is is for mobility, skill and experiences. This site has the most recent summary of job opportunities. In March there were ads for 225,200 job vacancies over the whole of Australia. These figures tend to be consistent with other indexes so, while it may understate the totals somewhat, it is probably a good indicator of what is available. Note the decrease in numbers over the past years:

“The Internet Vacancy Index (IVI) increased by 0.8% in March 2012 in trend terms, and has now increased by 1.3% since December 2011. Over the year, however, the IVI has fallen by 7.2%, and is 41.0% below the March 2008 peak.”

There are 774,124 government-sanctioned official job seekers for maybe about 250,000 vacancies. These are all registered with Job Services Australia. They compete with all those other job seekers who are not on benefits or even officially unemployed. They consist of 501,630 on Newstart plus 83,557 on Youth Allowance, 70,661 on parenting payments single and a scatter of further categories of those on payments looking for jobs. This means more than three such unemployed job seekers could potentially be looking at each listed job. However, the ratio of seekers to jobs becomes much worse when further data are examined.

First, the types of jobs on offer do not match many of the unemployed with limited qualifications. The list has 130,000-plus jobs, described as for managers, professionals, and trade/technicians, most presumably requiring qualifications and experiences. There may be more appropriate openings among the 15,000 or so community services worker jobs, or 17,000 labouring jobs but other areas such as sales and clerical again would often require skills and experience. So, out of all the above sectors, there may be about 50,000 vacancies that don’t require proof of skills and recent experiences. How many of these would be available part-time, say in school hours, is not indicated.

Secondly, who are these job seekers? They are not a broad cross section of the population. They tend to be older or younger: 212,211 job seekers are aged over 45, and therefore likely to be regarded by many employers as too old. The 85,524 people under 20 probably lack any workforce credentials or experience and may have few attractions for employers with choices. Over 245,000, all up, have been on payments for more than 24 months so are likely not to present well and may not be seen by employers as good risks or having recent experience. Many are also responsible carers, newly arrived and/or lacking in English skills.

So, realistically, in March this year, there were 50,000 jobs that could in theory go to some of the people on the Job Services books, which makes the ratio of job seekers to jobs in this sector about 13:1. There will be others looking at the jobs and questions of where the jobs are and what are the hours and physical demands as well.

The sole parents need jobs that allow them to manage their time with children, those with lesser but significant disabilities may have limits on their physical or mental abilities and both will also suffer employer prejudices. Older workers have problems getting jobs, which is why the government is offering bribes. Younger workers lack experience and often any confidence to try something new. All long-term unemployed have been forced to chase jobs they cannot get and are discouraged and depressed. They do not present as keen and interested. Few will even make it to an interview.

These figures show why finding paid work will continue to be difficult for most people on Newstart. Some subgroups, such as sole parents, will find it particularly hard because they need to balance children’s needs against workplace pressures. To meet potential worker needs, employers need to be approached to change working conditions and prejudices. Better child care for school-age children also will help, but basically only some will find current types of jobs.

If the ALP is serious about its commitment to fairness, it needs to reconsider its welfare policies. The current directions cannot be described as traditional Labor policies, as they resemble hardline conservatism. The built-in punitive values are evident in policies such as income management, limiting income, pushing recipients into futile activities. When the data show that the jobs are not there, it is even more unintelligible.

Measures impacting women

By Marie Coleman, originally published in the Canberra Times

Marie Coleman

This Budget of multiple savings and few outlays not already announced focuses on productivity and work-force attachment, not least for women, including single mothers.

The majority of women with dependent children who are in the work force are working part-time. Many are in ‘feminised’ industries where wages are relatively low, and payment of the compulsory superannuation guarantee often evaded.

These low paid workers will benefit from numerous measures in the 2012-13 Budget.

The cashing out of education tax deductions together with the tripling of the tax free-threshold highlights the importance this Government is placing on direct cash-in-the-hand benefits over tax exemptions offsets and deductions to access financial assistance from Government.

Taken with the fact that child care fee relief is now available fortnightly and no longer only at the end of the fiscal year, these policy changes may cause some re-thinking of current Opposition flirtation with tax deductibility as its central policy on child care costs. Cash in hand as costs are incurred is essential for low and middle income earners, many of whom will no longer be lodging income tax returns in the very near future.

The expanded money for JET child care fee relief, along with new funds for vocational training through the Future Workforce Skills package means opportunities for upgraded skills with eventual better wages, especially for single mothers. Many mature women have inadequate or out-dated skills bases, many are under-employed. The additional funding for up-skilling of mature age workers ought to be carefully directed toward these women- there is little indication if that will be so. Availability of school vacation and out of school hours care remains woefully inadequate.

The level of NewStart payments has not been addressed in this Budget. On the other hand the increase in FTB A, the introduction of the Supplementary Allowances and Schoolkids Bonus will go some way to easing the problem for those with dependants. These measures take some of the sting out of the scrapping of the ‘grandfathering’ arrangements for sole parents, which will now require them to transfer to the lower rate Newstart payment.

For single Newstart beneficiaries the situation remains dire despite the Supplementary Allowance. Housing costs are prohibitive for low income beneficiaries. There is little or no new funding for further measures for affordable rental housing beyond continuation and finalisation of the current program.

Many savings measures, such as the targeting of FTB A, and the changes to superannuation concessions for higher income earners, are consistent with the arguments which women’s organisations have been arguing through the Henry Review of Taxation, and the subsequent Tax Forum.

The age care reform package will benefit older women (who form a disproportionate number of the very old,) often living in relative poverty. The Government has announced that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare will be tasked with producing comprehensive data on aged care, including gender analyses. Similarly, the National Disability Insurance Scheme will provide welcome relief both for carers and for people living with a disability. Whether the Opposition will commit to support the NDIS is still unclear. It is probable the Opposition will want to see the aged care package successfully resolve a problem before they inherit it.


Wow, you made it to the end. Well done. Now a few other things. Donna Summer, the lady who sang the song that I have taken for the title of this post, sadly died today. Check out her music vid here.

Thanks to Fran, Emily, Eva, Osmond and Christine for helping me compile this round up.

Featured image is by Krug 6 via Fotopedia.

4 Responses to “She works hard for the money, so you better treat her ri-i-ight”
  1. Christine Says Hi says:

    Really good round up and write up, thanks Megan!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] fcollective brings together sweet-as feminist analysis of the federal budget for […]

  2. […] or more. They will be joined shortly by most of the 80,000 job seekers above, as announced in the budget. Managing on the sole parent payments is already hard, but doing it on the lower rate of Newstart […]

  3. […] or more. They will be joined shortly by most of the 80,000 job seekers above, as announced in the budget. Managing on the sole parent payments is already hard, but doing it on the lower rate of Newstart […]

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