ACOSS & NCSMC: We know how to deliver gender equality and end poverty for women, but will we?

On International Women’s Day 2022 ACOSS, in partnership with the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, recognises women everywhere, from all backgrounds, who are at the front of calling for change to deliver gender equality. We particularly recognize women on low incomes living with the reality of poverty and homelessness, women dealing daily with harmful policies that contribute to their ongoing economic insecurity.

On IWD, we remember that the solutions to delivering economic security for women and ending poverty are clear.

Research just published by ACOSS in partnership with UNSW showed that the Federal Government has the power to end poverty for women at the stroke of a pen if it so chooses.   This research showed that the Coronavirus Supplement reduced poverty for sole parent families (both adults and children) by almost half, from 34% to 19%. This research reinforces a host of other studies that showed that poverty amongst women is a policy choice.

Previous analysis has shown that women are more likely to live in poverty than men, with 20 per cent of all women living in poverty compared to 17 per cent of men. Women spend more years living in poverty compared to men.

We call on the government to urgently fix policies that perpetuate economic insecurity of women on low incomes and oppress them. Governments must actively engage with the civil society organisations led by First Nations women; women on low incomes; single mothers; women of colour; women with disabilities; women experiencing homelessness; women from LGBTIQ+ communities; women experiencing domestic violence and younger women and girls, to genuinely design policies that will address these issues. Women understand their needs and know what needs to be done to stop women and their children waking up in poverty, insecure and at risk.

On International Women’s Day, we again call on Governments to give high priority to tackling gender inequality for women on the lowest incomes. As the last two years have shown, the big levers to end poverty and deliver economic security for women with the least are to:

  • Raise the rate of social security to above the poverty line
  • Build social housing
  • Abolish punitive mutual obligation programs like ParentsNext and other barriers to social security and housing
  • Deliver more adequate crisis and disaster payments

See further the  wide range of other asks we have repeatedly highlighted.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said

“We know that the overwhelming experience of women relying on social security is that social      security forces them and their children into deep and crushing poverty and operates to oppress women and cause them harm. Most women live in daily fear of not being able to feed themselves and their children          properly, as well as losing their home.

“During 2020, when the Government delivered more adequate income support and housing, and suspended punitive conditions, we halved the rate of poverty amongst single mothers and their children. We’ve turned our backs on them again, plunging women, including single mothers and their children, into deep poverty once more. This has been done at the same time as the Government is delivering billions in tax cuts to wealthy men.

“As the ongoing spate of extreme weather events show, it is now more important than ever that policies are designed to ensure that women and their children are not the ones who are most harmed when the economy is disrupted and left with absolutely nothing.

“We know exactly how to end poverty for women, but will we?”

NCSMC EO Terese Edwards said:

“We must have the uncomfortable conversation about poverty and hardship & how these overwhelmingly harm women & children. We have the resources to changes lives. We need to unlock the political will. For too long our poorest women are blamed for gendered bias in our policy settings. It’s enough.”

Juanita McLaren, a sole parent who escalated her concerns about living on unemployment payments to the United Nations, has said:

“Not only is [social security] inadequate when you’re on it but it can take months, if not years, to recover from it financially when you do start working again.”

Media contacts:

Bronwen Reed, ACOSS – 0419 626 155

Terese Edwards, NCSMC – 0439 211 493