Inaugural Women’s Economic Security Statement focuses on independence and opportunity

22 November 2018

We welcome the Australian Government’s inaugural Women’s Economic Security Statement launched by the Minister for Women in Canberra, 20 November 2018. Backed by an investment of $109 million over four years, it aims to increase women’s economic independence and opportunity.

“This statement demonstrates a commitment to increasing women’s economic security,” said Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand’s CEO Stella Avramopoulos.

One of the key measures in this package is a change to the paid parental leave scheme, giving parents more choice in how they use their leave in the first two years of their child’s life. Proposed changes to the work-test rules will benefit women who may previously have been excluded from government-funded parental leave pay. This includes women who have irregular work, are on casual contracts or take breaks from paid work.

“We’re very pleased to see the Australian Bureau of Statistics Time Use Survey reinstated,” said Ms Avramopoulos. “We’ve advocated for this measure of women’s economic security because it supports analysis of paid and unpaid work from a gender perspective. By looking at the nature and characteristics of women’s unpaid work, key features of disadvantage in the workforce can be addressed. This includes the gender pay gap and flexibility gap.”

The new financial literacy and capability not-for-profit body, ecstra, will focus on building the financial capability of Australian women. “This is a core area of our service offering,” added Ms Avramopoulos. “Every day we see the positive impact our financial coaching program Firmer FoundationsTM makes on women’s financial security—and their confidence in taking control of their finances.

“We also welcome changes to court processes such as easier access to former partners’ superannuation information (through information sharing with the ATO) and a simplified property claims process. Economic insecurity and family violence go hand in hand. We know from our own research that single mothers dealing with the family law system and financial abuse are extremely vulnerable in the short and long term.”

We congratulate the government and Good Shepherd Microfinance, which is part of our Good Shepherd network, for extending their No Interest Loans Scheme to 45,000 women escaping family violence.

While women need financial support when they’re experiencing hardship due to family violence, we’re cautious about the announcement to give early access to superannuation. “Women’s superannuation balances are already low (42 per cent lower than men’s balances on average),” said Ms Avramopoulos. “In our experience, providing financial support for women through the social security system—as well as wrap-around services that include secure housing—is a more effective solution.”

We would also like to see changes within the social security system, specifically the conditional elements of Welfare to Work and ParentsNext. Our research shows that welfare conditionality is not improving the financial security of single parent families who are the poorest family type in Australia. “These systemic changes are critical to increasing women’s economic independence and opportunity: for them and their families.”

Read our reportOutside systems control my life”: The experience of single mothers on Welfare to Work

Media contact Ethnè Pfeiffer 0411 478 111 ; Ethne.Pfeiffer@goodshep.org.au