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RSS 2.0

This Budget bashes birds

By Marie Coleman - posted Wednesday, 11 May 2011

You'd have thought that the measures to expand training and work readiness might help a woman in a relationship wanting work, but unable to do so because of poor English, or out of date skills . . . well, no, she's not among the eligible groups. There are measures to help others in the population improve low language, literacy and numeracy skills- older workers, apprentices, from the tenor of the Budget papers . . . blokes.

But, if you are a partnered woman under forty and don't have dependant children, your partner will lose the dependant spouse tax offset from I July. That's to 'help encourage more Australians into paid employment' according to the Treasurer.

Women's groups have repeatedly told Ministers that around two thirds of 'hidden' but still counted unemployment is of women, mostly ineligible in their own right for government benefits and work related programs.These are people who tell the ABS they want to work, but can't start within four weeks, so are not officially counted as unemployed.


When unemployment peaked at 5.8 per cent in June 2009, male unemployment hit 6.1 and female unemployment was 5.5 per cent. With the recovery it's now around 4.9 per cent; male unemployment is at 4.5 and female at 5.4 per cent.

The female unemployment rate has barely moved. We are back to the chronic hidden female unemployment and low male unemployment we experienced on the eve of the Global Financial Crisis.

Male unemployment behaves cyclically but women's experiences remain roughly constant.

Skills shortages are to be addressed by this Budget, but a significant group of women is passed over again.

This Budget sees the logic of assisting those with disabilities but not those women facing structural problems in the workforce, such as lack of transport, childcare and low skills and literacy.

A single teenager with a child will now face tough training and participation requirements. She will be required to return promptly to education and training, there'll be assistance with child care costs, and failure to engage will see loss of Government benefits.


Teenage girl parents (this policy does not target the young male parents) are assumed to be feckless. Some undoubtedly are. It is a national shame upon the various education systems that so few have vigorously reached out with positive programs to re-engage young mothers with education and training.

There can be no question that policies to support young single mothers are needed. The policies need to help them develop skills, including child rearing skills, to develop self-reliance, and to become good parents.

A pity this issue hasn't been approached more positively.

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About the Author

Marie Coleman is the Chair of the Social Policy Committee, National Foundation for Australian Women.

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All articles by Marie Coleman

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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