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Women to rescue the Australian economy

Peter Switzer
10 May 2022

Who would have thought the Coronavirus could prove to be the virus that women and the economy had to have? I suggest the answer would be close to zero but an investigation by Chief Executive Women and Impact Economics has found the country’s labour shortages could be fixed by making it easier and more attractive for women to go back to work.

The SMH says there’s a pool of work-ready women starting at half a million if the wage gap between men and women was halved. And it could be one million if the wage gap was totally closed!

These are big numbers that would make up for the 500,000 or so foreign workers who left the country over the Coronavirus lockdown periods. To see how important temporary migrants are to our economy, The Conversation reported: “The Grattan Institute’s new report, Migrants in the workforce, shows there were about 1.5 million temporary migrants in Australia as of January 2022, compared with almost 2 million in 2019.”

These people are mainly international students coming in at about 335,000, while holidaymakers or backpackers come in at only 19,000.

Another interesting fact is most of the Kiwis living here (about 660,000) are on temporary visas, so the lockdown madness of Jacinda Ardern has aggravated our labour shortage issues.

The SMH says there are now 425,000 job vacancies here, which is a record high. To attract more women, the Chief Executive Women (CEW) group wants childcare assistance to be ramped up to tap into the huge female workforce out there waiting to get back into employment.

Childcare is a big election issue and CEW wants the childcare subsidy increased to 95% for all low-income households up to $80,000.

This is the current state of reality and promises from both sides of politics: “Labor’s childcare policy would cover the cost of up to 90 per cent of childcare for families earning up to $530,000 per year, while the Coalition’s system, which is currently in place, benefits those earning up to $354,000 per year. Labor’s policy is estimated to cost $5.4 billion over four years.” (SMH).

To make this clear, under Labor, families with an income of $75,000 would get a 90% subsidy on childcare, while a family earning $500,000 would receive a 7% subsidy. For those families earning $200,000, the Coalition subsidy is 50% while Labor is offering 66%.

Sam Mostyn who heads up CEW thinks investing in getting women back in the workforce should be compared to the deep investment in infrastructure, where the cost involves billions but the returns are great in the long term.

Another interesting revelation from Impact Economics was that someone with a bachelor’s degree in a female-dominated industry gets $39.20 an hour, while the same for a male-dominated industry is $51 – a 30% difference!

With foreign workers returning set to be a slow drip, this is a great chance for women to be given a fairer go in the workplace.


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