WHAT HAPPENED TO THE NEXT GENERATION BEING BETTER OFF? MACROECONOMICS AS THE FINAL BASTION OF GENDER (IN)EQUALITY
Since inception, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognised reducing violence against women as a global goal. Yet, it’s difficult to see how Australia can meet the goal without significantly greater investment in the prevention of violence against women. Today’s original blog post is contributed by Kara Beavis (@KarsyBee). Kara is enrolled in a Ph.D. at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) entitled: Lessons from Norway: Influencing the Political Economy for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. Apart from working previously as a “femocrat” within women’s policy units in NSW and Queensland, she presently juggles teaching duties with research and advocacy for gender equality.
Worldwide, thirty-five percent of women have faced physical and sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence from a non-partner (García-Moreno et al., 2013). Despite feminists conveying expertise for the enrichment of economic policy, macroeconomics appears to remain an impasse to gender equality. Treatment for men’s violence against women can no longer reside (solely) in the realm of social policy. The cost of intimate partner violence is far beyond what we, as a society, can afford. In Australia, PWC estimates that violence against women will reach $323.4 billion over 30 years from 2014‐15 to 2044‐45 if investment does not substantially increase . PWC research adopts a comparable methodology to previous Australian studies and produces similar findings (KPMG, 2016).
Moreover, the (economic) cost of intimate partner violence is not evenly distributed. Feminist economics has observed the impacts of market-lead economic policies since the ‘80s; the winners and losers are discernible. In orthodox economics, households are units of consumption, defined by income, rationality, perhaps fertility. In feminist economics, households are where women are abused and do unremunerated caring work.
Women’s lived experiences of both intimate partner violence and unpaid household work were historically private matters. These experiences are still scarcely visible in contemporary governmental budgets. Globally, significant investment in the prevention of gendered violence is urgently required, yet remains a challenge. Androcentricity in macroeconomics renders economics a final bastion of patriarchy (Bjørnholt, 2018).
Moreover, it’s no longer possible to ignore that market-driven values have thwarted efforts to reduce gendered violence. In the United Kingdom, the then-Labor Government managed the Global Financial risis by rescuing banks to the tune of UKP 500 billion . The Government initially adopted a Keynesian approach and stimulus package (as per the Australian approach at the time), and then changed tack. The strategy didn’t reduce debt nor domestic violence. Reduction of public expenditure by 77 percent was so severe that it propelled the UK into a second wave of recession . Mass closures of specialist domestic and sexual assault services followed.
Linking amassed losses to demands on public services makes macroeconomic implications clear. A recent study of Vietnam introduced a multiplier methodology to reflect that different types of violence can co-occur to produce a significant cumulative effect. The more marginalised women are in the household, the further they appear to be from any serious macroeconomic decision-making clout. At the time of writing, Australia ranked 35th globally for gender equality, which included numbers of women in parliament.
Some tinkering in Treasury Departments in Australia has occurred, but it’s pocket-change, comparably. Current approaches (in US, UK, Norway, Australia) are insufficiently capable of preventing violence, for people facing multiple discrimination particularly. Australia’s costing studies attempt to estimate the costs of violence against women to the economy in order to assist Treasury economists in the allocation of resources. Only the Australia Greens Party are getting close to the projections of what gendered violence will cost the economy. They’ve committed AUD5.3billion in new money for a government partnership, ongoing funding security for specialist domestic violence and sexual assault services, AUD200 million to help approximately 1,000 women each month. This builds on Australia’s first, joined-up strategy to reduce violence against women and research indicating that access to resources could improve a woman’s options in an abusive relationship. The existing National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children ends in three years, and it’s not clear what will take its place. How the work has meaningfully transformed the institutions of political economy is also unclear.
As we approach a federal election, Australia could take a leaf from the Scandinavian countries. Norway is a social democracy offering universal healthcare and a social security system. In Norway, public institutions have a legal imperative to mainstream gender into policies an. In Australia, there’s been no real increase, beyond indexation to the CPI, to Newstart since 1994. Then-Labor Prime Minister Gillard removed mothers from single parent benefits the day she gave a famous misogyny speech. Much more is needed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, women with disability, and other targeted groups.
Neoliberalism is broken! Feminist economics want an overhaul of the institutions and processes of political economy, and with it, a changed value system. A profoundly different way is required.