A Tale of Two Housing Systems

Housing policy is a highly gendered issue
Women are the primary beneficiaries of housing support systems and assistance. Single women make up 45% of the 1.3 million income units in receipt of Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA). Single men account for 30% and couples 25% (see here). Females compose 60% of the 288 000 people assisted by specialist homelessness services (SHS). And across all social housing programs 61% of main tenants are women. Gendered patterns of housing support and assistance reflect the gendered contours of housing need and reveal the demand for housing solutions that are gender responsive.
Women also live longer compared to men and on less, gendered income and retirement gaps show no signs of shrinking, and violence continues to displace women and their children from their homes. The disadvantaged position of women in housing systems calls for greater housing stock that is both affordable and appropriate for women and their families.
Current housing funding arrangements embed this disadvantage. If decisions contained in this Budget maintain the housing status quo, this implies a lack of concern for addressing the second-class status of women and current gender inequality.
As recent research from AHURI finds, “the typical negatively-geared investor is male; aged in his mid-to-late forties; employed full-time; and has a tax assessable income, or income before deductions, of $91, 000” (p. 1). While estimates vary, it is suggested that the impact of negative gearing alone on the Federal Budget is at least $2 billion.
On the other hand, the typical social housing tenant is a woman. In public housing she is a woman over 55 and living alone. In State Owned and Managed Indigenous Housing, she is a woman aged 25-54 with dependent children. And in community housing she is a woman over 45 and living alone (see here). The annual Commonwealth funding for social housing and homelessness services from 2018-19 through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement is $1.5 billion. Given that housing affordability has reached crisis levels which is propelling an increasing number of people into homelessness, housing affordability measures must be a priority for significantly greater investment.

Why we still need a women's budget statement in 2018

Since 2014 there has been no Women’s Budget Statement. Now it’s up to an army of volunteers, led by the NFAW’s chair Marie Coleman, to do it.
The Australia Institute’s analysis also indicates that spending cuts mainly disadvantage women who rely on government services more than men. The proposed cuts in the 2014 Budget impacted women more than men: 55% of the cut in incomes was borne by women and 45% by men.
The result is a situation where men get the most benefit from tax cuts while women are more detrimentally impacted by spending cuts.
“The impacts of budget decisions on gender inequality should be a more prominent part of budget decision making,” Grudnoff says. “One way to help achieve this would be mandating that all budget decisions should include a statement showing the impact by gender. This at least would highlight which policies benefit men and disadvantage women.”
Which is precisely why the NFAW prepares its annual report.
Coleman says this year’s budget is “not great” for women although she identifies some small seeds of hope. The fact there were two women on the Expenditure Review Committee, the first time in several budgets, is positive. As is the fact the minister for women Kelly O’Dwyer expressly required the Office for Women to assist her in the ERC role.
In September O’Dwyer will unveil a ‘significant funding’ package to address the economic disadvantage many Australian women face. It’s promising but the budget remains the single most important policy document and to alleviate gender inequality in a meaningful sense requires wholesale reform at that level.

Saudi Arabia Detains Activists Who Pushed to End Ban on Women Driving

Saudi Arabia has detained at least five people connected to the campaign to end the kingdom’s longtime ban on women driving, despite the fact that the government has promised to lift the ban next month, associates of the detainees said on Friday.
Around the time last year that the government announced that it was going to lift the ban on women driving, the authorities contacted a number of women who had campaigned against the ban and warned them to avoid talking about the issue on social media or with journalists, some of them said later.
Many of them assumed that the government did not want them to take credit publicly for the policy change in an absolute monarchy that suppresses activism.

How Indigenous and disabled women lost out in the 2018 budget

Despite the government spruiking its tax relief for Australians in this year’s budget, many women will not benefit from the tax plan. There is also a lack of support for the most vulnerable in our society, including Indigenous women, women with a disability and women affected by family violence.
The budget papers state that the tax offset, available from 1 July 2018, will benefit low and middle income earners.
However, the structure of the tax offset only reduces tax paid, if a person pays tax in the first place. In the 2015-16 year, 1.9 million, or 32% of women who lodged a tax return, were not taxable, and would not benefit from the offset.
Additional funding was not set aside for the National Plan to Reduce Violence against women and their children. Eight years after the plan was launched and midway through the government’s Third Action Plan, there is no improvement in any of the four indicators of change.
Indigenous women also lose out with this budget. At a time when the government’s Closing the Gap efforts are seen to be faltering, with only one of seven key targets on track to be met after a decade, there is little in this budget to change that.
Notably, the proposal to allow the federal government to withhold welfare payments to pay fines imposed under state and territory laws has been described by the National Congress of First Peoples as:

…a recipe for ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society will remain so, with unpaid fines likely leading to increased rates of incarceration rather than pathways to prosperity.


the disturbing truth you need to know about women’s homelessness

Homeless women are mostly single women who look like everyone else
45% of single women over 45 are earning the minimum wage or less and all of these are either already homeless or at risk of homelessness, as the minimum wage is no longer able to pay the lowest rentals. 330,000 women fall into this category.
Very few are mentally ill before they become homeless, and very few are sleeping on park benches. Very few are criminals. Very few are professional beggars. They are mostly perfectly ordinary white collar workers or pensioners.
Why are single women too poor to afford housing?
Women are routinely underpaid
Women’s work is increasingly casualised
Women are increasingly victim to age and gender discrimination in the workforce
Women walk away from relationships leaving assets behind
Abused women walk away from relationships with nothing
The various welfare options designed to catch everyone who falls are now shot through with serious holes, the most serious of which is that welfare payments can no longer pay for the most basic housing.
The massive inflation of house purchase prices, flows through to rentals. Pensions have remained pretty much stable, while house sale prices and the associated rents have sky-rocketed.
Homeless women have devised a range of options to keep a roof over their heads . . . but these solutions are all short-term or insecure.

Homeless women are not getting the help they need from public and social housing providers.

Most of the conversation is about old men on park benches. Some of the conversation is about young couples getting their first mortgage who are not currently homeless. Very little of the conversation is about solutions for those on low incomes and who simply need secure rental at prices they can afford.

This IS a national emergency that requires a nationally coordinated crisis response.

There is enough existing housing for everyone: it’s just not affordable.

Making women’s unpaid work count: Feminist economics pioneer Marilyn Waring on care and the unfinished feminist re volution

Every International Women’s Day, or when Australia Day honours are handed out, we ruefully observe that, despite decades of feminism, equal opportunity laws and a higher percentage of female tertiary graduates than male ones, we still have a gender pay gap and far fewer women in positions of power. We consider overt and covert discrimination, sexual harassment and other barriers to women’s advancement. Yet the central reason that the revolution is unfinished is right there under our noses in everyday life: women’s unpaid work.
Waring wrote Counting for Nothing. Gross domestic product, in excluding the unpaid labour of one gender, Waring tells me, is based upon “an ideology of applied patriarchy”. Because GDP only looks at activities in the marketplace it counts the work of drug dealers but not of hospice volunteers, the production of nuclear weapons but not women’s unpaid work. Human activities of great value are made invisible, treated as valueless. One of Waring’s famous examples is breastfeeding. Despite all we know about the benefits of breast milk, Waring pointed out that the more manufactured formula milk replaces breastfeeding, the more it adds to GDP. Since GDP is equated with progress, a loss is defined as a gain.
Long before our societies began to come to terms with climate change, Waring had already pointed out the terrible consequences of not valuing our environment. Economics did not count the preservation for future generations of our irreplaceable natural environment: air that is safe to breathe, clean and plentiful water, and pristine, undamaged ecosystems. Instead it counted and valued all those activities – the work of polluting industries and coalmines, even the clean-up of oil spills – that placed it in peril.
Waring’s influence was, and is still, significant. She has advised governments around the world and inspired human rights organisations. The System of National Accounts was revised in 1993 to include more aspects of subsistence farming, partly in response to Waring’s critique, and revised again in 2008, but “what remained utterly consistent was what was not counted”: unpaid work. The System of National Accounts made provision for separate but consistent satellite accounts that give an imputed value to this unpaid women’s work so it can be measured alongside GDP. An Australian Bureau of Statistics study in 2014 revealed that unpaid work in Australia was worth $434 billion, equivalent to 43.5 per cent of GDP.
In March this year, Tanya Plibersek announced the Australian Labor Party’s commitment, if elected, to giving the ABS the $15.2 million it would need for time use surveys in 2020 and 2027. Citing the 2016 census figures, Plibersek said the average woman did 14 hours of housework and family organisation per week and the average man fewer than five, while women did three quarters of the child care, and 70 per cent of caring for elderly or disabled family members or friends. “The Australian economy, Australian society, rests upon women’s unpaid work,” said Plibersek. “As Marilyn Waring – the founder of feminist economics – once said, ‘What we don’t count, counts for nothing.’”

The data says it all: There's a significant 'motherhood penalty' in Australia & getting worse

The so called “motherhood penalty” is more deeply entrenched than I thought in Australia, and it’s getting worse.
According to the Diversity Council, which regularly produces a report looking at the drivers of the gender pay gap, the influence of years not working, i.e. career interruptions, usually related to the birth of children, has more than doubled since the Diversity Council first researched the drivers of the gender pay gap ten years ago.
What’s more, Australia has some of the highest part-time work rates for women in the world, according to the OECD. Only Switzerland and the Netherlands outrank us. And to round things out, 1 in 2 women report experiencing discrimination while pregnant, on maternity leave or when they return to work, and they are spending up to twice as much time on unpaid domestic housework as men.
I’m not telling anyone anything they don’t already know when I point out that over the course of a lifetime, this adds up to the ultimate “motherhood penalty”, with women retiring with on average half the superannuation as men. Older single women are the fastest growing group of people falling into homelessness.

“The struggle keeps you going”: Selma James,founder of International Wages for Housework Campaign, tal ks Trump, pay equity and more

When the Wages for Housework (WFH) campaign exploded onto the international feminist stage, it sparked the first debate on unwaged caring labour that women are forced into due to the social roles they are expected to perform. It demanded money from the State as compensation for the labour that was not merely a “role” that women were performing, but formed the backbone of the economy due to the physical and emotional investment made by women into housework.
“All I knew was that the basic weakness of women was that we did work that was unwaged and that payment for that work was absolutely central to our autonomy- to our right to have children and our right not to have children, to pay equity”, says Selma.
It was the 1972 seminal publication, The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, co-written with the feminist Mariarosa Dalla Costa, that first theorised housework and caring work as unwaged labour that women are forced to do; the very labour whose output supports the working class and through it, the market economy. Soon after, Selma James launched into praxis.
In fact, in May of 2015, the tongue-in-cheek Twitter hashtag #GiveYourMoneyToWomen went viral. Initiated by Lauren Chief Elk, it highlighted how women’s time and attention is often taken for granted, and suggested that if it were in such high demand, perhaps it deserved to be paid for.

Why the move towards transparency will help shrink the gender pay gap

A shift is underway when it comes to the gender pay gap in Australia: opaque is on the out and transparency is creeping in.
This week two leading professional services firms, Ernst & Young and PwC, disclosed the pay gaps that exist between men and women in their respective organisations, for the first time.
The shift towards transparency follows the British government’s introduction, in 2017, of mandatory reporting of the pay gap in organisations that employ more than 250 people last year. The deadline for disclosure is the 4th April this year and around two-thirds of relevant employers have already complied.
It is a significant change because the historic lack of transparency around remuneration has long allowed the pay gap to flourish unchallenged. It has allowed the nebulous theory that the pay gap is myth to continue. The clarity that actual numbers deliver nips that in the bud and brings accountability to the table.

gender and minecraft: console-ing passions

Playing Minecraft as a pacifist vegetarian is technically possible, but the game design generally rewards those players who murder animals for meat (e.g., meat staves off starvation longer than vegetables and bread)—put another way, players are rewarded for treating the landscape and everything on it as a resource ripe for harvesting by way of punching, stabbing, shooting, etc.
In the process of overcoming enemies and colonizing the land, the player character is elevated in their heroic status on the frontier. The land and trophy items that a player collects—diamond armor, Ghast tears, enchanted weapons, etc.—further serve to symbolize power, progress, and accomplishment.
In privileging Minecraft players who assimilate with the player character—as a weapon-wielding, diamond-mining, meat-eating machine—game designers at Mojang marginalize players who want to find other ways of surviving, community building, and playing with mobs that don’t align with a colonial paradigm.