The People Who Created Every Taxpayer Who Ever Lived Were Completely Ignored In The Budget
Let me, through metaphorical gritted teeth, put a few facts in front of you.
The first, and possibly the most shocking, is that women aged over 55 are the fastest growing group among the homeless in Australia.
The average age of ‘retirement’ (I doubt most of it is voluntary) for women is 52.3 years and the old age pension doesn’t kick in until you are 65, soon to be 67.
That’s at least 13 years you have to fund out of your super. Oh, and let’s not forget that women retire with on average with just over half the super of men, and a third of women retire with no super at all.
Surely such an accumulation of grim statistics about the financial tsunami facing 51 percent of Australia’s population ought to alarm any responsible government? After all, even if you still find it impossible to value women simply as fellow human beings, these are your wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and increasingly and -- horrifyingly -- your grandmothers.
Yet, in this week’s much anticipated Federal budget, the one touted as a possible election-winner, there was not even a mention of the increasing plight so many women are facing as they age.
Our leaders seem to begrudge women any share of the national revenue, whether we are in surplus or deficit -- despite women having given birth to every taxpayer who ever lived, as well as being taxpayers themselves.
As Nicki Hutley, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics and self-described ‘tired, disillusioned, old economist’ (she’s a woman aged over 55 too, and a mother, so no wonder) put it:
"Not only is there nothing in this Budget for older women, there is nothing in it for women of any age."
Indeed, it seems there is very little. While the government has thrown some financial support behind programs combating domestic and family violence, and has continued to invest in encouraging girls and women into STEM careers, which tend to be higher paying -- for older women, there was next to nothing.
Yes, women struggling with financial hardship will benefit from some of the one-off measures in the Budget, like the electricity rebate for pensioners, single parents, carers etc, but even then, it was only belatedly extended to those on Newstart, a benefit (if it deserves the name) that more and more older women are finding themselves having to rely on to eke out an existence between the ages of 52 and 67.
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The tax cuts will disproportionately benefit men over women (they always do) because they favour higher over lower wage earners and women are disproportionately concentrated in part-time, low-paid work in female-dominated professions which are (this will shock you) also lower paid.
Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that all the women’s groups who usually attend the Budget lock-up were uninvited this year until the outcry at their omission resulted in two groups being let back in -- thanks for nothing, guys.
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It is an indictment of us as a society that any group faces increased hardship as they age simply because of their gender or the colour of their skin (oh, yes, there is a race pay gap as well).
But when you consider that women are more vulnerable to poverty in old age precisely because we still expect them to drop everything (including their income) when someone needs to be cared for, our government’s blithe disinterest in the financial fate of women is even more outrageous.
Almost worse, if this latest budget is any guide, this financial vulnerability for older women will continue for many generations to come because nothing is being done to help younger women remain in the workforce either. Perhaps that is why Nicki Hutley singled out lack of action on the eye-watering expense of childcare as one of the most disappointing aspects of this budget.
“It is the single biggest impediment to women returning to paid work,” she said. And not being in paid work is why women are so vulnerable financially as they age.
I have seen the human cost of this first-hand as I have travelled the country talking about this topic. At event after event, older women have approached me with tears in their eyes, confiding their terror about another rent rise or their daily decision about whether to heat or eat.
These are women who have worked for most of their lives, brought up children, cared for elderly parents and juggled everyone’s needs ahead of their own. That this should be their reward, that our government turns its face away from their plight, that they should feel shame about their poverty and desperation is a black stain on us all.