Federal budget fails to invest in STEM, missing key opportunities for growth


Wednesday 13 May, 2021

The Federal Government’s budget failure to invest in STEM misses a major opportunity to boost productivity and innovation at a time when both are desperately needed to boost Australia’s economic recovery.

Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said the 2021-22 Federal budget, while spending heavily, failed to adequately invest in STEM workforces and capabilities, which would have important flow on benefits for the entire economy.

“Despite accumulating a national debt of almost one trillion dollars by 2025, this Federal budget invests little in STEM workforces or improving capabilities.

“When flow-on effects are considered, STEM sectors account for over 26 per cent of Australian economic activity, or about $330 billion per year.

“Yet the budget once again neglects to provide investment in the key drivers of economic growth, such as infrastructure, science, innovation, higher education and research.

“The consequences of this failure to invest in these areas will have flow-on consequences for many years to come, undermining the nation’s economic capacity, employment and long-term productivity."

Ms McCabe also said the budget missed important opportunities to invest in STEM workforces in a manner that would deliver economic growth, enhance capabilities and improve gender equity.

“The 2021-22 Federal budget fails to invest in the skills of engineers, scientists, ICT professionals, pharmacists and other technical professions by not committing to career-long learning, modular forms of training or re-skilling, to ensure an agile and well-trained workforce is available to lead us into economic recovery.

“Additionally, no investment has been made to ensure the Australian Public Service is capable of attracting the STEM skills it requires, nor has there been any effort to fund a whole of service STEM workforce plan for the Australian Government.

“The measures contained in this Federal budget’s women’s statement are welcome, but given that women typically retire with $90,000 less than men, and 23% of women retire with no superannuation at all, we remain deeply concerned about the lack of investment in securing women’s financial security through improved superannuation and other structural changes to increase women’s workforce participation.

“We also note that the women’s statement constitutes a very small percentage of the overall budget, and look forward to greater attention and resources to improve outcomes for women in the near future.

“In terms of gender equity, women make up just 28% of information, communication and technology employees, compared with other professional industries where they represent 45% of the workforce yet this Federal budget contains no plan or funding to address the significant equity issues in STEM, or any other employment sector.”

Ms McCabe said the Federal budget has also failed to address the dual crisis faced by millions of Australian workers - low wages growth and job insecurity.

“In 2020, wages growth for Australian workers slumped to an all-time low of just 1.4% after an entire decade where wage growth had already fallen to historic lows, well before the pandemic hit.

“Across the entire period of this Government we have seen next to no wage growth while profitability is at record levels.

“With a forecast of flat or barely increasing wages growth over the coming years this Federal budget provides Australian workers with little relief.

“Australian workers are also desperately seeking economic certainty in their lives so they can undertake major financial decisions like buying their first home or upgrading the family car, yet this budget will do nothing to improve job security.

“We call on the Federal government urgently address these economic issues and to end the neglect of STEM workforces and capabilities by undertaking key investment which would support Australia’s economic recovery and underpin economic growth for many years to come.”

Media contact:
Darren Rodrigo 0414 783 405