I’m sorry to have to agree, but Grattan Institute boss Danielle Wood is right to say this is a “blokey” budget. As are those who add it’s a blokey budget from a blokey government. Scott Morrison is offended by the charge, but the trouble is, the blokier you are, the harder it is to see what’s blokey and what’s not. Women see it sticking out, but blokes often can’t.
The simple truth is that, over the centuries, what economists call the “institutional arrangements” that make up the economy have been designed by men, for the convenience of men. This was fine when the great majority of the paid (note that word) work was done by men, but not so fine now women are better educated than men and make up 47 per cent of the paid workforce.
It’s because the blokiness of the way we’ve always managed the economy is so deeply ingrained in the way we’ve always thought about the economy that so many men can’t see it. Outsiders can; insiders can’t. To steal a phrase from the feminists of my youth, it’s now the men who need the “consciousness raising”.
(Of course, it’s nothing new that people can see their own point of view – and their own vested interest – far better than they can see other people’s.)
The first place a bias in favour of men is hidden is the division we make between the production of “goods” (by the agriculture, mining, manufacturing, utilities and construction industries) and the production of “services” by every other industry.
Kevin Rudd’s declaration that he didn’t want to be prime minister of a country that didn’t “make things”, and Morrison’s similar noises recently, are manifestations of the truth that, in general, jobs in the goods sector are held in higher esteem than those that involve performing services.
Would it surprise you to learn that 79 per cent of the jobs in the goods sector are held by men whereas, in the almost four-times bigger services sector, 54 per cent of the jobs are held by women?
Would it surprise you that jobs held by men tend to be more senior and higher-paid than jobs held by women? Even within the services sector – which, of course, includes a lot of highly paid occupations, such as prime ministers and premiers, managers, doctors, dentists and lawyers.
Over the past 50 years, almost all the net growth in jobs has been in the service industries. This is because the production of goods has become increasingly “capital-intensive” (more of the work is done by machines), whereas the services sector is, by its nature, labour-intensive.
It’s no accident that most of these extra service sector jobs have been filled by women, returning to the workforce or never really leaving it. Much of this growth has been in what the National Foundation for Australian Women’s latest Gender Lens on the Budget report calls the “caring professions” – nursing, childcare, aged care and disabled care.
Would it surprise you that caring jobs are done mainly by women and tend to be low-status and low-paid? Surely it’s obvious that being in charge of an expensive machine is a far more responsible role than being in charge of children, the elderly, the sick or disabled?
Although the coronacession is unusual in having its greatest effect on service industries, the budget sticks to the standard script of directing most stimulus to the goods sector: construction, energy, manufacturing and road and rail projects.
The concession to encourage more business investment in equipment favours capital-intensive goods industries over service industries. The tax cuts will go more to men than to women, especially after the middle-income tax offset is withdrawn next financial year.
But there’s where the budget aims its stimulus and where it doesn’t. No economic modelling should be taken as gospel truth, but modelling by Matt Grudnoff, of the Australia Institute, finds that bringing forward stage two of the government’s tax plan will create only between 13,400 and 23,300 jobs – depending on how much of the cut is saved or is spent on imports.
By contrast, Grudnoff estimates that splitting the same $13 billion evenly between service industries – universities, childcare, healthcare, aged care and the creative arts – would create almost 162,000 jobs.
Modelling commissioned by the women’s foundation from Dr Janine Dixon, of Victoria University, has found that redirecting government spending from infrastructure to the provision of greater care for children, the aged or the disabled would yield significantly greater benefit to the economy and jobs.
So why did Morrison and his Treasurer choose not to spend more on services sector jobs? Because this didn’t fit with the “core values” that guided their choice of stimulus measures: “lower taxes and containing the size of government”.
Although these days most of the heavily female-performed childcare, healthcare, aged care and disabled care has been contracted out to the community and private sector, its cost is heavily subsidised by the taxpayer.
I bet it’s never crossed Morrison’s mind that his commitment to Smaller Government is biased against women and the further growth of female employment.
Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.
Source: Thanks smh.com