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Gender equality matters. As gender equality improves, economic and social outcomes improve. International evidence shows that greater gender equality would generate more jobs and positively impact gross domestic product per capita.1 In high-income countries, gender equality is generally also associated with better health outcomes.2
Despite progress towards gender equality in New South Wales, significant differences in economic outcomes for men and women remain. Women’s workforce participation in New South Wales is lower than men’s (61.4 per cent for women aged 15 years and over, compared to 70.4 per cent for men aged 15 years and over) and women are more likely than men to be in part-time or casual roles.3 Women in New South Wales are paid 11.8 per cent less than men on average.4 Throughout Australia, women also hold fewer senior leadership positions than men.5
To improve gender equality in New South Wales, we need to remove the barriers that prevent women from realising their potential, and we need to better value the economic and social contributions women make. While gender equality is everyone’s responsibility, the NSW Government is committed to leading the way. It is the largest employer in Australia and has responsibility for policy, programs and services that improve the lives of the people of New South Wales.
This 2023-24 Gender Equality Budget Statement (‘the Statement’) outlines how the NSW Government’s first Budget will impact gender equality. It is an interim step as the Government considers its broader gender equality plan and budget reporting framework. Consistent with the 2023-24 Budget themes, it focuses on support for essential workforces and on alleviating cost-of-living pressures that disproportionately affect women.
This Statement applies a gender lens to the Budget and details measures that address gender inequality across three key themes.
The gender pay gap reflects gender inequality in society and contributes to women’s lower lifetime economic security compared to men. The gender pay gap can partly be explained by industry and occupational segregation, with men disproportionately represented in higher-paid industries and occupations, as well as positions of leadership.
Feminised industries are female-dominated and often associated with caring roles. These industries provide essential social infrastructure to individuals and communities. They also support economic growth, including by helping people providing unpaid care to engage in more paid work.6 Yet work in feminised industries has been historically undervalued.7 The NSW Government employs large workforces in these industries, including nurses, teachers, and school-based support staff, and is committed to strengthening them.
The NSW Government has abolished the public sector wages cap. In June 2023, this Government took the first steps towards recognising the valuable work of our essential workers with the largest pay rise in more than a decade. The 4.5 per cent pay increase (including a 0.5 per cent increase to superannuation) for more than 400,000 public sector employees, 66.3 per cent of whom are women, was just the beginning of a long-term plan to support higher wage rises and rebuild essential services.
A historic pay rise will see teachers go from being among the worst to the best paid in the country. Starting salaries for teachers will increase from $75,791 to $85,000, and salaries for those at the top of the scale will increase from $113,042 to $122,100.
A flat rate pay rise of $3,500 for more than 50,000 healthcare workers will lead to lower-paid staff receiving a pay increase as high as 8 per cent.
The NSW Government will also establish a new $3.6 billion Essential Services Fund to expand our workforce and support wage growth by provisioning funds to recognise improvements in services.
The NSW Government remains committed to closing the gender pay gap in the NSW public sector. As at June 2022, the gap in median remuneration between men and women in the public sector was 4.5 per cent, compared to 4.1 per cent in 2021.8
As at June 2022 the gap in median remuneration between men and women in the public sector was 4.5 per cent.
The NSW Government recognises the importance of attracting and retaining teachers, nurses and other essential workers.
This Budget will reduce the administrative burden on teachers by at least five hours a week, create an additional 250 school counsellor roles, and make other investments to improve student outcomes. It also invests $20 million in an Innovative Teacher Training Fund to support new and innovative pathways into teaching. To provide better job security and conditions, permanent roles have been offered to 16,000 temporary teachers and school-based support staff.
To support a strong health workforce, the NSW Government is investing $121.9 million over five years to support 12,000 healthcare students with study subsidies. New students will receive scholarships of $4,000 per year. Existing students will receive one-off payments of $8,000.
This Budget invests $419.1 million for an additional 1,200 nurses. It also commits $572.3 million over three years to enable 1,112 full-time equivalent nurses and midwives whose positions were funded temporarily to June 2024 to be made permanent. These commitments will improve the experience of nurses, midwives, and patients in the NSW health system.
Increasing the representation of women in leadership positions is critical to closing the gender pay gap. For the first time in NSW history, the NSW Cabinet comprises 50 per cent women.
However, there is still work to do to reach gender parity in NSW public sector leadership positions, where women hold 44.0 per cent of senior leadership positions, despite making up 66.3 per cent of the total workforce.9 This is a focus for the NSW Government.
Access to childcare is a significant enabler of women’s workforce participation, as women take on a disproportionate share of unpaid childcare work. The cost of early childhood education and care (ECEC) is a barrier for many households.10 Other barriers include a lack of choice of providers, inflexible care arrangements and problems securing a childcare place.11
The NSW Government is committed to boosting access to preschool for every child in New South Wales. This Budget invests $769.3 million for 100 new preschools on public school sites where they are needed most, and $60.0 million to fund new and upgraded non-government preschools.
The NSW Government will also trial preschool fee relief of $500 per child over two years for 3-year-olds in eligible long day care settings from January 2024. This measure will support up to 64,000 children and their families.
Investment in the ECEC workforce is critical to boost the supply of ECEC services across the State. The NSW Government is investing up to $28.5 million over five years to help address ECEC workforce shortages and support business capability development.
The NSW Government is focused on empowering women to enter or re-enter the workforce through skills development and work-readiness initiatives.
This Budget commits $5.8 million to create a Future Women’s Jobs Academy to support women to become job ready and boost participation. With the support of the Australian Government, a new Working Women’s Centre will also be established to support women to navigate workplace issues, including sexual harassment, underpayment, wage theft and parental leave.
The NSW Government will build on the momentum of the Matildas’ record-breaking performance at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World CupTM by investing in programs and facilities to enable more women and girls to participate in sport. This Budget commits $30.0 million to the Level the Playing Field Female Facilities Fund to deliver new or upgraded facilities, new playing areas, and lighting to allow increased safety and playing capacity.
A recent survey showed that women are much more likely than men to feel unsafe in public spaces after dark.12 When women feel unsafe, they may alter their behaviour. They may, for example, avoid travelling at night or avoid public transport altogether, potentially reducing economic and social participation. This Budget commits an additional $300 million to expand the Transport Access Program to upgrade train stations and commuter car parks to make them more accessible, safe and secure.
In December 2022, New South Wales and Australia experienced the highest inflation in more than 30 years.13 Sydney’s inflation rate was 6.6 per cent over the 12 months to June 2023.14 While rising prices impact everyone, women as a cohort are disproportionately affected because on average they earn less than men.
To help ease the impact of rising electricity costs, this Budget will provide eligible low-income households, pensioners, self-funded retirees, families, and carers with up to $500 towards their electricity bills. Eligible small businesses will also receive a payment of up to $650 towards their bills. Further relief will be provided for eligible families, seniors and low-income households in 2024-25.
This Budget commits $170.8 million to improve salary packaging arrangements for more than 50,000 healthcare workers, the majority of whom are female. This measure is intended to boost take-home pay and improve retention rates.
The NSW Government is also establishing Homes NSW and a $224.0 million Essential Housing Package to deliver better outcomes for public and social housing tenants.
The NSW Government is committed to making it easier for women to access essential health care. This Budget commits $34.3 million in increased support for 20 Women’s Health Centres across the State, which provide primary health care to women, including those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
A further $7.3 million is committed to support participating pharmacists to provide treatment for uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) and manage supply of the oral contraceptive pill, which will improve access for women seeking these services. This Budget also commits $18.6 million for 29 new and eight existing McGrath Foundation breast care nurses to provide patients and their families with support from the time of diagnosis and throughout treatment.
It is estimated that one in four women in Australia have experienced violence by a family member or intimate partner since the age of 15.15 The rate of domestic violence-related assault incidents in New South Wales increased by 3 per cent annually over the five years to December 2022.16
Domestic and family violence has no place in our community. This Budget commits $4.4 million over three years to establish a new specialist multicultural domestic and family violence centre in southwest Sydney. The NSW Government will also invest $52.7 million in NSW Health Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and the broader medical and forensic workforce, and $8.1 million for the Redfern Legal Centre Financial Abuse Service.
To improve their long-term housing outcomes, the NSW Government has committed $13.0 million to expand access to the Shared Equity Home Buyer Helper trial to include domestic and family violence victim-survivors.
Reaching gender equality requires changing the way government has traditionally considered policy development and resource allocation.
NSW Treasury is piloting gender impact assessments for selected new policy proposals, with learnings to inform the State’s future approach to both its gender equality plan and budget framework. The NSW Government is also piloting Gender Equality Action Plans which require agencies to actively champion gender equality in their workforce strategies and when developing policies, programs, services and legislation.
There is no quick fix to addressing gender inequality. However, the initiatives included in the 2023-24 Budget are an important step in the right direction.
The NSW Government looks forward to working in partnership with other governments, businesses, industry and the community to advance gender equality in New South Wales.
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