Focus on women and young people in budget

Women and young people hardest hit by the coronavirus economic crisis are expected to be a central focus of the federal budget.

Bosses who hire unemployed young people will receive a wage subsidy under a plan to be outlined on Tuesday night.

But it remains unclear what the budget will do for women, who have represented more than 50 per cent of job losses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it was clear women had been disproportionately affected by the recession.

“We can’t have a pink recession and a blue recovery,” he told reporters at Parliament House.

“What we need to do is make sure, in terms of fairness, that those issues are addressed.”

Workers in female-dominated industries like hospitality and retail have been among the most severely impacted by coronavirus lockdowns.

Even in the arts and entertainment sectors, where more men are employed, women have borne the brunt of job cuts and reduced hours.

Labor argues the government has done a poor job supporting women through the pandemic.

Many short-term casuals were excluded from the JobKeeper program and childcare workers were the first to have their wage subsidies withdrawn.

Women excluded from the scheme were forced to draw down on their superannuation instead, eating away at their retirement savings.

Labor argues the budget is a chance to “make that right” by creating job opportunities for women and ensuring access to affordable child care.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is keenly aware of the issues facing Australian women.

“In tonight’s budget, we’ll be releasing our second women’s economic security statement, helping to boost female workforce participation,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“We want to get it back to that record high that it was before this crisis began.

“In tonight’s budget, we’ll also be supporting young people.”

Mr Frydenberg said previous recessions had shown unemployment “goes up the elevator and comes down the stairs”.

“In the 1980s, it took six years to get unemployment back below six per cent from where it started,” he said.

“In the 1990s, it took 10 years. We want to move faster than that and importantly, we want to help women and young people get back to work.”

Many of the government’s pre-budget announcements so far have targeted male-dominated sectors like construction and manufacturing.

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