Federal Budget 2023: Three positive developments for social impact

Author: Professor Danielle Logue, Director CSI NSW

The 2023 Federal Budget has been variously described as compassionate, and moving towards repairing the social contract, and also unambitious and missing opportunities to address structural reforms needed for long term economic prosperity.

Yet beneath these headlines there are some interesting developments that we are thinking about in the context of our work at the Centre for Social Impact. Here is a quick summary of three important announcements surrounding the gender pay gap, the housing crisis, and impact investing and social enterprise development.

Women and the gender pay gap

First, we had a dedicated Women’s Budget Statement which explains how all of the 2023-24 Budget measures will impact women. It looks at how budget initiatives intersect with women and health, financial wellbeing, employment, and overall gender equality. As such, budget measures to address low wages in the care economy, particularly in aged care, were broadly welcomed as this is a largely feminised workforce.

Amongst the Budget measures we also saw attention to changes in how the gender pay gap will be reported. Following reforms passed to the Workplace Gender Equality Act, we will see the publishing of pay gaps at an employer level for workplaces with more than 100 employees, in addition to publishing the gender pay gap at a national, industry and occupational level.

The first set of private sector employer gender pay gaps will be published in early 2024. This is an important step in a broader conversation around understanding a business’ social license to operate and responsibility and accountability in addressing gender inequality.

The housing crisis

Second, we saw an increased focus on the housing crisis, in all its facets, and necessarily so. We saw a commitment to increasing the supply of social and affordable housing. Amongst this were new programs to incentivise private investors to ‘build to rent’, and new ways of thinking about how to blend public and private finance to fund the increase in supply.

Whilst these are encouraging efforts, I do wonder what would our efforts and commitment look like if we took seriously that the right to housing is a human right?

Impact investing and social enterprise

Third, beneath the headlines, we saw a commitment to exploring and exploiting the potential of sustainable finance and impact investing in addressing some of our national challenges.

We know that Government funding isn’t enough to address the grand challenges we are facing, so how can we mobilise more private sector funding that can achieve both financial and social returns? To this end, the Government has committed $100m to an outcomes fund to work with state and territory government to develop such blended finance deals, and importantly also provide additional funding of over $60m for place-based investment programs to tackle entrenched community disadvantage.

It has also committed $11.6 million for building the capacity of social enterprises and for-purpose organizations to build their capability, to become investor ready, and to take the steps to scale their impact.

This is important in a global context, as just last month the United Nations General Assembly agreed on its first ever resolution on the social and solidarity economy. The resolution encourages member states and financial institutions to promote and support the work of social enterprises, cooperatives and others to achieve sustainable development.