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Women in the Workforce under Labor

Friday 4 June, 2010

On Monday in Federal Parliament members were asked to stand up and acknowledge the government’s achievements in improving the economic position of women.

The statistics, the commentary in the community and the despair and worry of women today reflects the fact that women’s economic position under this Labor Government is deteriorating.
Let’s begin with the gender pay gap, the difference in wages paid to men and women doing the same work or work of equal value. Under Labor, this pay gap has widened. It has got worse. We are amongst the highest-educated women in the developed world, but we have the biggest gender pay gap. It is 17 per cent on average today. Women are only paid 83 per cent of the same wages that men receive for work of equal or comparable value. This erodes the self-esteem of women and frustrates and angers them, while it lowers the productivity of the country.
The finance and insurance industry pay gap is on average 31.9 per cent, the pay gap for female CFOs and CEOs is about 50 per cent, and getting worse. Women have only about 8.3 per cent of board directorships; two per cent of CEO roles and 10.7 per cent of senior executive positions are held by women, and under Labor it has got worse!
Government board appointments reflect their total failure to address an area directly under their control. Government authority and board positions under Labor are now more likely to be male. It is extraordinary that the Making it Fair report, with more than 60 recommendations to improve gender pay inequity has languished on the minister’s desk without action for nearly six months.
And then there is Labor’s response to paid parental leave. A scheme for all is essential for families, but the government scheme is totally inadequate. That is why, when the Coalition comes into power, we will change it and deliver to women six months leave and two weeks for fathers, a replacement salary or minimum wage, whichever is the highest, and superannuation.
Women are retiring on very little. They often have career breaks because they are the major carers in our society. But did Labor put superannuation into their Paid Parental Leave scheme? No, they did not. They are perpetuating the problem of not enough superannuation or savings for working women. How can they stand up and ask us to celebrate that fact?
Seventy three per cent of single aged pensioners are women living long lives with no financial independence. This is not going to change as long as we have Labor perpetuating the problems for working women.
Most mothers in work need affordable, accessible childcare but this government has made things harder. They have cut the childcare rebate cap from $7778 to $7500. They said it will only hurt rich parents. No, it affects parents who have at least a baby or toddler in care four or five days a week paying the average childcare fees. They hit that cap very quickly. This government has made child care less affordable, especially given that it is introducing a national quality framework, with COAG, which will increase costs of child care up to $22 per day and cut the number of Queensland child care places by at least 8000.
Labor has also made it harder for rural and remote women to access essential child care. If you live in Western Australia in the wheat belt, in towns like Darkan, Dalwallinu, Cunderdin or Corrigin, forget it! Those towns do have child care right now, but it is part-time. Their small populations do not warrant 48 weeks a year, eight hours a day, Monday to Friday child care access so these are part-time centres, but they are excellent centres and they make it possible for women to work in those small rural wheat belt towns in Western Australia. The child care centres also help break down the social isolation that children often experience in such small communities.
What has this government done to these essential but part-time child care services? The Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth, Kate Ellis, is apparently interested in their need for long-term accreditation at full-time opening hours. They are being offered extensions of six months only. How can you employ paid professional staff on that basis? Nor can you set up an alternative family day care services in a private home because Labor has slashed the$1500 start-up grants for such services and slashed the remote area family day care start payment of $5000 from July. 
Labor promised a national response to domestic violence, 12 months ago. It has not been delivered. Labor promised a national women’s health policy, nearly two years ago. Labor promised to build 260 new child care-kindergarten centres but due to their budget blow-out that has been cut to 38. Labor promised “universal access” to early childhood education for all in the year before four year olds start school. No such thing has been delivered. Pre-schools are closing in drought-stressed areas because parents can’t afford the fees.
Sadly, there is no cause for celebration if you are a woman and a mother or a grandmother trying to live with the new policy settings and resource redirections. The fact that the Federal Parliament was invited to celebrate Labor’s economic achievements for women was a total farce.


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