What can we expect from the 2021 Federal Budget?

The government will hand down the 2021 Federal Budget tomorrow, after a turbulent year which saw it pour billions of dollars into keeping households and businesses afloat. 

According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s world class recovery efforts will receive another boost this week, with funding going towards jobs creation, healthcare and disaster preparedness.

"This will be another pandemic budget being delivered in the midst of a once-in-a-hundred year pandemic and just seven months after the last budget," he recently told the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

"The Budget will lay out the next phase of Australia's economic recovery plan, to grow our economy so we can deliver the jobs and guarantee the essential services Australians rely on, and keep Australians safe."

Along with tax offsets for low and middle income workers and more funding for Australia’s aged care system, the government has announced several ambition programs which will be laid out in more detail on Tuesday. These include:

Expanding provision of childcare

Ahead of tomorrow’s budget, the government has already announced a $1.7 billion package to help families access childcare, which it hopes will encourage new parents to make their way back to the workforce.

Starting July, the government will raise the childcare subsidy from 85 per cent to 95 per cent for families with two or more children aged five or under. The measure is expected to save up to 250,000 Aussie families as much as $2,260 per year. 

Dr Leonora Risse, a Lecturer in Economics at RMIT University, said we need to begin treating child care as “infrastructure that allows the rest of the economy to thrive,” and its expansion requires plenty of forethought.

“It needs to be accompanied by expanded availability and accessibility of childcare places and a pipeline of well qualified staff, otherwise the government is setting up the system to be overloaded beyond current capacity,” Risse said.

Strengthening women’s health programs

The Federal Budget will also contain a $354 million package dedicated to women's health, which will be spread out over four years.

More than $100 million has been earmarked to strengthen cervical and breast cancer screening programs. Australia’s BreastScreen initiative will now support those aged 40 to 74 on a permanent basis.

Soon-to-be mothers will benefit from an additional $95.9 million in funding for embryo screening during the IVF process, and $13.7 million in funding to help reduce pre-term birth rates.

Perinatal depression will also be targeted, with more than $47 million going towards mental health services for new and expectant mothers. 

Another $27 million will help combat eating disorders, and $21.6 million will be spent on women's health initiatives, such as pain management programs for those living with endometriosis.

Support for bushfire and flood-affected communities

The government will also earmark $600 million for the creation of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRAA) — an agency dedicated to helping Australians respond to natural disasters.

Prime minister Scott Morrison said the NRAA will play a key role in assisting communities in vulnerable areas, particularly when it comes to disaster-proofing homes. 

"The new Agency will help communities rebuild and recover from natural disasters, helping many Australians in their greatest time of need, while strengthening our defences against future major disasters," he said.

"Immediate funding will support resilience projects across the community and for individuals' homes, such as bushfire and cyclone proofing houses, building levees and improving the resilience of telecommunications and essential supplies."

Addressing youth unemployment

Economic crises tend to produce scarring in labour markets, and it’s generally younger workers who are most likely to be impacted. 

Tomorrow’s budget will address some of the challenges the cohort faces, along with unemployment more broadly, by investing in apprenticeships and job creation programs.

Right now, the unemployment rate sits at 5.6 per cent - down from 7.5 per cent at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg hopes to push that figure below 5 per cent — a target which has not been sustained since 2006-2008.

Kathryn Daley, a senior lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT, said targeting youth unemployment is essential if the economy is to claw back.

“Long-term youth unemployment increases the risk of future unemployment. Today’s youth will be the ones who pay off our high national debt, but they cannot do it if they are un- or underemployed,” she said.