The Labor government has made women in the workforce a priority, according to statements about last night’s federal budget.

The budget included measures on childcare affordability and paid parental leave.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said workplace reform in the budget was a “critical first steps” toward women’s economic equality.

As of November 2022, the nation’s gender pay gap is sitting at 13.3 per cent, and while this is narrowing, (down from 18.2 per cent in 1984), some female dominated sectors are still facing an uphill battle toward equality.

Alongside a pay rise for aged care workers, of which more than 85 per cent are women, the government plans to bolster female employment in traditionally male dominated industries, pledging $5 million of grant funding to support women in male-dominated trade apprenticeships. Women currently make up just 3 per cent of the nation’s skilled trades sector.

Notably, the government plans to spend $72.4 million over the next four years to “support, build and retain” the female dominated sector of early childhood education and care (92 per cent women), in an attempt to address widespread workforce shortages.

University of Wollongong School of Education senior lecturer Dr Gai Lindsay said the investment was a step in the right direction.

“There has been, traditionally, a real undervaluing of the early childhood sector, and the result of that has been significant workforce shortages which continue to be a problem, even post-covid. Most services around Australia are struggling to get the number of qualified staff that they require,” Dr Lindsay said.

“We need to be positioning early-childhood education as a profession, in the same way that being a school teacher is a professional job. Teachers in early childhood are paid more poorly than their primary school counterparts, even though they also complete a four-year teaching degree.

“Until we see that sort of pay equity coming into the sector I think the profession will struggle.”

The budget announcements on gender pay equality will be supported by the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment Bill 2023 that was passed in parliament in March of this year. Under the bill, the gender pay gaps of businesses with 100 or more employees will become publicly available by early 2024.

Budget Infographic by stef_schultz

Feature image source: TIME Magazine