Health, safety and super for women a focus of Federal Budget


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In delivering what is touted as a women's budget, the government has revealed three areas it will target to assist women: health, safety and superannuation.

Increased family measures have also been announced: childcare assistance has been extended to help women who have not been financially incentivised to stay in the workforce when they have children. Around 250,000 families are expected to benefit from the new measures, according to the government.

Increased funding to preschools means that all children will have access to at least 15 hours of learning in the year before school.

federal budget night 2021 womens health breast cancer

Women's futures

As one measure to help women build their super balances, the monthly threshold of $450 for workers to earn before becoming eligible for the superannuation guarantee from employers has been scrapped.

It is estimated that this will benefit more than 200,000 women who are currently in low-paying jobs and not receiving superannuation payments.  The threshold will be abolished from July 1, 2022.

"We want all Australians to get the most out of the superannuation system," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said. "On average, women retire with less superannuation than men."

According to Financial Standard, the Retirement Income Review found that 63% of those earning less than $450 a month are women and that the current median gender gap in superannuation balances at retirement is 22%.

Colonial First State general manager Kelly Power says this Budget is also great news for women working part-time as they will now be paid compulsory super where they have one or more jobs paying less than $450 per month.

"Our calculations show that by abolishing the threshold for paying the super guarantee, a female worker at age 30 who drops to part-time work, due to family caring responsibilities, could receive up to an extra $6,924 at age 40.

This difference increases to $11,700 in today's dollars due to compounding investment returns by retirement at age 67."

Safety measures

$1.1 billion was pledged for women's safety with more emergency accommodation, more legal assistance, more counseling and cash payments for those experiencing domestic violence.

"We will improve the family law system to better protect children and reduce the time spent in court," said Frydenberg.

Targeting sexual harassment in the workplace, the Respect@Work report will see the government provide $20.5 million, including $5.3 million for initiatives such a primary prevention programs and research into sexual harassment.

Health initiatives

Women's health will receive funding for the Women and Infants Research Foundation into endometriosis support and pelvic pain, Medicare-funded genetic testing for pregnant women at risk of having a child with a serious genetic disorder, as well as treatment for women with breast defects from surgery, cancer or congenital deformity.

Affordable access to essential and lifesaving medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will kick in from April 1, 2021, to allow additional medication for women with certain types of breast cancer which may previously have cost around $50,000 per course of treatment; this has been reduced to $41.30 per script or $6.60 for those with a concession card.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.