There’s some positive news today in the battle for gender equality – yet there is much still that needs to be done to improve the lives of women in Australia.
On the good news front, the economic progress of Australian women just recorded its fastest quarterly pace in two years, thanks to record high employment and a falling gender pay gap.
The pay gap between men and women fell to its lowest level in 25 years in the March quarter, according to the latest data by the Financy Women’s Index, while the number of women in full-time employment hit a high of 3.23 million at the start of the year.
The index considers economic factors including women in leadership roles, education, career opportunities and financial security in Australia.
But despite the good news, women will have to wait for at least another 12 years before they reach financial equality, according to the report – so long as the growth trend continues.
Founder of the index, journalist and blogger Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, said women’s progress is still being hindered by the difficult life choices they often have to make between family and career.
“From what courses they study, whether they take career breaks, change work patterns, rise to leadership positions or even add a little extra to their superannuation,” she said in a statement.
“It’s the choices that women make which can act as a critical enabler of their financial wellbeing.”
Although more women than men enroll in tertiary education, women still earn on average 14 per cent less than men do.
That has a meaningful impact on live savings by the time we retire.
A new report from financial consultants Dixon Advisory found that women today retire with almost 50 per cent less than men in their superannuation accounts, thanks to lower wages and time off from work to care for family members.
Nerida Cole, director of Dixon Advisory said that women who work full time for the better part of a decade compared to those who work part time to potentially care for children, take home around $100,000 more by the time they retire.
“More women are working in part-time roles, they’re also more prominent working in industries that have lower average wages, and we know that most of those issues are driven by women being the primary caregiver,” she told Business Breakfast.
“So having to take time out of the workforce in order to take care of children – that really creates a barrier in terms of income opportunities.”
And the news is even worse for single women, who are at the greatest risk of facing poverty at retirement, according to the report.
While there are a number of steps that women can take to boost their super balances through spouse contribution splitting, these benefits don’t exist for single women.
Cole said super concessions need to go further for women, “regardless of their relationship status.”