TEU women's vice president Sarah Proctor-Thomson says in order to reach the Budget’s objective’s for all New Zealanders, we need to strive toward a more equitable society in which gender inequality is eliminated.

Grant Robertson suggested in a pre-budget announcement that "Budget 2020 gives us the chance to begin this rebuild, better and together", to ward off further entrenchment of inequality in a post-COVID-19 Aotearoa, and to help ensure New Zealand is ‘the country we have always said we want to be’.

We know, as TEU members, that in order to reach the Budget’s objective’s for all New Zealanders, we need to strive toward a more equitable society in which gender inequality is eliminated.

In 2020 the National Women’s Committee has been developing a Gender Equity Strategy to guide TEU work within our organisation and within our institutions. The strategy we are working toward is based on our TEU whāinga. It will provide a guide to promoting gender equality for key strategic areas of action for TEU. Although still under development, the strategy provides a lens for understanding the Budget. The strategy sets out a future in which the following are achieved (alongside other strategic objectives):

Tū kotahi, tū kaha - TEU and our tertiary institutions are undertaking positive actions and working collectively with a comprehensive plan to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Ngā piki, ngā heke – The right of women to be safe and comfortable participating fully and actively within our union, in our institutions and society is assured; women live and work free from all forms of harassment, discrimination and gender-based violence.

Tū Kotahi, tū kaha – Women are recognised and promoted to the full range of economic, social and political leadership positions at all levels of our union, institutions and society in ways that genuinely reflect that women hold up half the sky.

The Budget makes some steps towards achieving these particular objectives and improving gender equity. $183 million over the next four years for the Ministry of Social Development to ensure continued access to specialist family violence services builds upon Budget 2019 and will provide timely support for women and whānau across Aotearoa for whom lockdown has been a violent and unsafe experience. This aspect of the Budget funding acknowledges the historic underfunding of this sector, and will provide further support at a time of increased danger and insecurity for women and whānau.

The $320.8 million invested in early learning has been a long time coming, and is a huge win for the early childhood education sector. It includes additional funding for ECE subsidies, funding for Kōhanga Reo, and $151 million to fund a first step towards pay parity for ECE teachers. This funding will provide a much needed boost to the sector. It will support women and parents back into work, and provides a long awaited improvement in pay for a sector in which women make up the overwhelming majority of teaching and support staff.

This Budget also sees a $16 million boost to Adult and Community Education to help providers to meet the increased needs for training and upskilling in the wake of COVID-19. Improving adult and community education and training and (retraining) accessibility regardless of age opens learning and training to second chance learners and mothers returning to workover a period of increasing unemployment and a limiting of job opportunities.

Coupled with the increased funding to assist caregivers, this Budget will see increased support for women to be recognised for the essential support they provide as caregivers, as learners, and as working people, while ensuring continued support for those most vulnerable.

Ultimately there is much more work to do in ensuring gender equality in Aotearoa, but through Budget 2020, the Government has made some important first steps. In the push to secure the economic future of the country in a post-COVID-19 world, with a focus on building New Zealand’s physical infrastructure, we all must continue to ensure the social infrastructure of Aotearoa continues to be a crucial part of planning and decision making. Achieving gender equality needs to be imbedded in rebuilding our economy and needs to include such things as specific cohorts of women in trades and training to ensure their safe and equitable participation in there build.

The steps this Budget makes towards ensuring the safety of women both in the work place and at home, in improving pay parity in sectors where women make up the majority of the workforce, and through ensuring there are adequate pathways for women to train and contribute both socially and economically, we can improve the lives and economic outcomes of all New Zealanders.