Budget 2023 & Older Women


One of the distinctive features of Budget 23 was that for the first time there was recognition that women aged 55+ on Jobseeker had little in savings and little chance of finding work. This was a meaningful step towards recognising that older women in the workforce face distinctive problems. However, Treasurer Jim Chalmers chose to award them only $6 p.d. extra in their Jobseeker payment. Not enough to lift them above the poverty line or out of homelessness.

These timid increases in Jobseeker are symptomatic of a failure to grasp the essential nature and magnitude of the problem. What we are seeing is the result of a lifetime of economic and social discrimination against women.

This systemic discrimination puts women onto Jobseeker. Then age discrimination keeps them there. 

Many of these women belong to the first generation in history of highly educated, older women with professions and skills. Nevertheless, as they age, tens of thousands of these women fall off the cliff into poverty and homelessness.

That’s why Jobseeker is a feminist issue and is part of a broader issue.

Holistic solution

Government needs to recognise that there is a social crisis that directly affects the present generation of older women and will most likely affect future generations of women. Government needs to formulate an holistic, targeted strategy and measures to address this crisis as rapidly escalating numbers of women continue to fall off the cliff. 

It requires a holistic solution. This is understood when it comes to improving the economic security of younger women, but not when it comes to older women. Minister for Finance and Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher is to be congratulated for measures in the Budget that will reduce the barriers to the workforce participation of younger women with children, their welfare payments and pay. 

But there were no significant measures to improve the economic security of older women by reducing the barriers to their employment. At a time when Labor is hailing the strongest jobs growth, the unemployment amongst older women is rising. 

Furthermore, it is now well known that older women are the fastest growing demographic of homeless people. But the much touted increase in rent assistance in the Budget of $31 a fortnight is ineffectual. Anglicare Australia’s 2023 survey pointed out that there are only 5 places in all Australia that someone on Jobseeker can afford to rent. Older women are  still forced to sleep in cars and tents. 

The Government’s Housing Plan is also totally inadequate as it only allocates 4,000 social housing places to be shared between domestic violence victims and older women.

Despite the Budget being in surplus, the Treasurer chose to ignore the recommendations of the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee to raise Jobseeker from below poverty levels. One way to fund this increase in Jobseeker could have been to drop the Stage 3 tax cuts. This would have enabled raising Jobseeker to the level of the minimum wage ($1,625 per fortnight).  It would have cost $70b less than the Stage 3 tax cuts over the first 9 years, according to the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work.

The Government must acknowledge the nature and magnitude of this social and economic crisis and deal with it not only incrementally, but also develop a holistic strategy to address it.

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