Strategy to Increase Women in Workforce ‘a Good Start’
10 July 2017 at 8:31 am
A new strategy launched by the Australian government to increase the number of women in the workforce is a “good start” but could be “more ambitious”, according to the Diversity Council of Australia.
The Minister for Employment and Minister for Women Michaelia Cash launched Towards 2025: An Australian Government Strategy to Boost Women’s Workforce Participation on Thursday.
The strategy, which incorporates a number of initiatives put forward in the 2017–18 federal budget, outlines the government’s roadmap to meet its target of reducing the gap in participation rates between women and men aged 15 to 64 by 25 per cent by 2025.
Diversity Council Australia CEO Lisa Annese told Pro Bono News it was good to see there was “something on the table”.
“I’m really thrilled that they’ve done something, because up until now we haven’t really heard about any gender strategy,” Annese said.
“At a glance it seems to be really comprehensive, it looks at childcare and work, future jobs, economic security and money, including women’s economic priority, and with a view to increasing the participation of women in the workplace.
“I suppose it would have been good to have seen some more work on women in leadership, perhaps more specific targets reducing the gender pay gap and other sort of more concrete strategies about trying to challenge a hyper masculine work culture but it does appear holistic in the sense that it includes Indigenous women and I can’t see too many groups left out.
“So, I think it is a good start, but like anything it can be improved.”
According to the strategy, the government has identified five areas which require continued action over the next decade: ensuring affordable, accessible and flexible child care; improving workplace diversity and flexibility; supporting women to innovate, succeed as entrepreneurs and thrive in jobs of the future; strengthening women’s economic security; and enhancing financial incentives to work.
The strategy also identifies six groups of women who experience different or greater barriers in participating in the labour force: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women; culturally and linguistically diverse women, mature age women, rural and regional women, women with disability, and young women.
A new Implementation Plan is set to be developed each year which will outline action the government will take over the course of the next 12 months.
Annese said the target to reduce the gender participation gap by 25 per cent by 2025 was “quite a vague goal”.
“I think it is a good goal but I think it needs to be supported by other goals,” she said.
“I think that we also need to reduce the gender pay gap, we need to reduce the gap between men and women in power, we need to totally eliminate harassment and violence for women in the workplace and their lives.
“So it is a good start. I am happy that they’ve done something, it certainly seems comprehensive, I was just hoping that in a few areas, it could be a bit more ambitious.”
Annese said increasing the number of women in the workforce was “absolutely crucial”.
“This is half the economy, this is half the labour market, we need to address inequities for both economic and social reasons,” she said.
“Social reasons because women are likely to retire in poverty and have lower standards of living and that is a bad thing.
“From an economic point of view, overlooking half the talent in the labour market just doesn’t make sense in terms of productivity and taking advantage of the country’s talent. And that is something that we need to build jobs for the future.”
Cash said getting more women engaged in work was an economic and social priority for the Turnbull government
“It’s good for women, families, business and our economy,” Cash said.
“Boosting women’s workforce participation is essential to raising living standards and securing Australia’s future prosperity.
“It has the potential to add up to $25 billion to the Australian economy.”
Cash said labour force figures released in June showed women’s employment was at a record high of 5.6 million.
“The workforce gender participation gap is narrowing, but more work needs to be done if we are to achieve our target of reducing the gap by 25 per cent by 2025,” she said.
“By delivering practical and innovative programs like Launch into Work and ParentsNext, coupled with our key reforms and record investment in child care, the Turnbull government is committed to assisting more women enter, return to or remain in work.”
However Labor criticised the new strategy as a “con”.
Shadow minister for women Tanya Plibersek said it was “woefully inadequate”.
“After a three year wait, the Liberals announced a ‘strategy’ on women’s workforce participation, without a dollar of extra funding, or a plan to reverse any of their terrible policies,” Plibersek said.
“They should go back to the drawing board.”