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Friday, June 24, 2022

Labor’s fourth ‘welfare budget’ still falls short on women’s well-being

All budgets are about economics and politics, and the 2022 budget was no different. The Labor government continued its economic reconstruction through commitments to the successful implementation of signature reforms in infrastructure and industry, low- and middle-income living costs, and health and climate.

Commentators attributed this largely to the backdrop of international disruption, continued inflation risks and extended supply chains. However, the response to how New Zealand women fared has been mixed.

Politically, Labor needed to reassure both core and soft voters with this budget. And since the 1990s, women have been an important source of the soft vote for Labor. Under John Key, the National closed the gender gap that had opened up under the previous administration of Helen Clark.

But women voters began returning to Labor in 2017 and overwhelmingly supported Labor in 2020. The NZ Election Study shows that 51% of female respondents voted for Labor compared to 21% for National. These figures show that women’s support is not to be taken lightly.

hit and miss

What did the 2022 budget offer to New Zealand’s diverse communities of women and non-binary people? There was some good news: a NZ$580m package for the Māori and Pacific Initiative and additional funding for the prevention of family and sexual violence were welcomed.

So do specialist mental health and addiction services, for health practitioners caring for intersex children and youth, and for the ACC for injuries that birth parents suffer. Single parent beneficiaries will now receive child support payments as income. And because women earn less on average than men, the extra $350 living pay makes sense.

Read more: A budget for a ‘squeezed beach’ – but is it the political circuit-breaker Labor wants?

But it’s not all good news. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner has highlighted that the living wage payments do not cover beneficiaries, and ignore pay gaps affecting Māori, Pacific, ethnic communities and the disabled.

Such gaps can be addressed if government ministries are required to cross-examine their budget proposals to ensure inequalities based on things such as race, gender, ethnicity, class or sexual orientation are mutually exclusive. are not strengthened.

For example, we know that women were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 job losses, with Wahin Māori and Pacific women experiencing the highest rates of unemployment. We also know that the rate of low use for women is about four percent higher than for men.

A budget with good and bad news for New Zealand’s diverse communities of women.
Getty Images

women at work

Budget investments in construction, advanced manufacturing, digital technology and agriculture industries have been received positively along with the continuation of the apprenticeship boost.

But as in previous budgets, inclusive outcomes are complicated by gender segregation within our labor market. To be fair, the government has taken initiatives to encourage women to go into these industries, and the number of women working in construction has increased by 12,600 by 2020.

Read more: Cost of living crisis means bold budget decisions are needed to lift more NZ children out of poverty

Proportionately, however, women are only 15% of the field (a double-digit increase in two years). Similarly, there has been little increase in the representation of women employed in manufacturing.

Data from the digital technology sector is hard to pin down. According to industry group NZTech, only 27% of digital technology roles were held by women, while Māori and Pacific people employed 4% and 2.8%, respectively.

New Zealand’s 2022 OECD Economic Survey, and both NZTech and the Digital Skills Forum, recognize the need to develop digital apprenticeships, design inclusive education pathways, and actively support careers for women, Māori and Pacific people in the region. is of.

real welfare

We also need to remember that continued investment in the care economy and social sectors will benefit recovery from the pandemic.

Caring for future generations through climate change mitigation and emissions reduction was also an important part of this budget. The $150 million investment in clean vehicles, and $109 million for proactive and public transportation initiatives, is commendable.

But applying an equality and gender analysis to these initiatives will reveal the complexities associated with assuming that all New Zealanders will be able to take advantage of these “green” options.

For example, New Zealand’s National Climate Change Risk Assessment identified how the effects of climate change can exacerbate existing inequalities for people marginalized by ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, age, literacy or health.

Read more: Decline in interactions with care workers shows little has changed in government attitudes about women’s work

While women are interested in electric vehicles, extended (permanent for some) discounts on public transport fares are likely to benefit them more than clean vehicle discounts; Women are more likely than men to use public transport, partly because of their lower levels of income.

But cost is not the only barrier to using public transport. Safety is also important, which means connection times between services, regular rural and regional services, street lighting and distance between stops and work or household matters for women.

The budget statement released in December 2021 included evidence that New Zealand women feel far less secure than men. The Treasury cites OECD data that shows New Zealand has the second largest gender gap when it comes to feeling safe, slightly better than Australia.

The government therefore has to do more to systematically address inequalities through public policy and the budgeting process. Perhaps the best starting point would be a requirement that all state agencies include gender in their calculations and analysis. In this way New Zealand can really take the lead in budgeting for “welfare”.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
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