Gender equality in Australia's tax and transfer system

Presenter/s: Academy of Social Sciences of Australia; ANU Gender Institute; Tax and Transfer Policy Institute; Curtin University Business School Women in Economic and Social Research Cluster

Event type: Workshop

Event date: Wednesday, 4 November 2015 - 9:00am to Thursday, 5 November 2015 - 2:30pm

Event venue: ANU Centre for European Studies, 1 Liversidge Street, Building 67C, ANU

Further information: Workshop program

This Workshop brings together researchers from economics, law, social policy and political science with the aim of investigating gender equality in the Australian tax and transfer (social security) system. Workshop participants will explore how taxes and transfers affect gender equality of wellbeing, benefits and burdens and how gender norms affect the design of our tax and transfer system. Outcomes will include recommendations to achieve gender equality for policy makers engaged in tax and social security reform in the short and longer term, including in policy notes to contribute to public debate. The papers in the Workshop will be published in 2016.

The Workshop will examine four themes addressing the gendered dynamics of tax and transfer policy: The objective in considering each theme is to investigate current data, legal and policy settings, distributional impact and responses and to recommend a policy and process approach.

(1) The fiscal sustainability of government. We consider history and current levels of taxes and welfare; expenditure cutting or austerity approaches to fiscal discipline, public investment and social security. Current reform processes take place in an era of fiscal constraint and global tax competition, changing demographics and slowing productivity growth. These all pose challenges to funding government which inevitably have gendered consequences.

(2) Work, care and capabilities of women over the lifecourse. A key element of any discussion of the tax and transfer system is the gendered distribution of work and care. Australia’s personal tax and transfer system is a fundamental part of Australia’s social and economic infrastructure for equity and support of capabilities of individuals. However as Nussbaum argues, women’s capabilities require us to address the central issue of care. Australia’s tax and transfer policy remains incoherent in this regard, although it is generally accepted that an economic policy goal is to increase women’s workforce participation. Where do women sit in the income distribution? What are the efficiency and equity implications for family configurations in terms of childcare, parental leave, other care responsibilities, family benefits, work and capabilities such as education?

(3) Saving, assets and retirement provision. While the gendered income distribution is well known, there is less understanding concerning the gendered implications of how we tax savings and wealth and of income and asset testing in the transfer system. Women have fewer assets than men, especially superannuation and women’s wealth remains limited because female working life is interrupted by care responsibilities. Women’s limited asset portfolios imply that women derive fewer and smaller capital gains and benefit less from tax concessions.

(4) Politics and process of gender impact analysis. What is the future of gender budgeting and impact analysis? This theme will examine how gender is being considered in current White Paper and other reform processes for tax and welfare reform, and will examine the broader questions of how to select benchmarks for assessing gender inequality in relation to income, savings, wealth and consumption, including treatment of women as individuals or within households, which is a challenge in analysis of the data. The goal is to identify where are the gaps and what is required for a full gender equality analysis in Australia’s tax and transfer system.

Speakers involved included:

  • Ms Marie Coleman AO, PSM, National Foundation for Australian Women
  • Professor Marian Sawer, The Australian National University
  • Professor Rhonda Sharp, University of South Australia
  • Professor Patricia Apps, University of Sydney
  • Professor Guyonne Kalb, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sarah Voitchevsky, Melbourne Institute
  • Professor Peter Whiteford,The Australian National University
  • Ben Phillips, NATSEM
  • Professor Maria Racionero, The Australian National University
  • Dr Huong Dinh, The Australian National University
  • Dr Julie Smith, The Australian National University
  • Dr Jenny Gordon, Productivity Commission
  • Dr Tim Higgins, The Australian National University
  • Dr Mathias Sinning, The Australian National University
  • Assoc Professor Helen Hodgson, Curtin University
  • Assoc Professor Siobhan Austen, Curtin University

The workshop was funded by the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia; the Gender Institute and Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Australian National University; and Curtin University Business School Women in Economic and Social Research Cluster.

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Updated:  7 November 2012/Responsible Officer:  Convenor, Gender Institute/Page Contact:  Web manager, Gender Institute