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Women still face 101-year wait for financial gender equality

  • March 08 2021
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Women still face 101-year wait for financial gender equality

By Cameron Micallef
March 08 2021

Following the COVID-19 economic downturn, it is now expected that women will have to wait over a century to achieve financial equality, with the economic downturn likely to lock in a lifetime of lower financial outcomes. 

financial gender equality

Women still face 101-year wait for financial gender equality

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  • March 08 2021
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Following the COVID-19 economic downturn, it is now expected that women will have to wait over a century to achieve financial equality, with the economic downturn likely to lock in a lifetime of lower financial outcomes. 

financial gender equality

A study released by the Grattan Institute shows the COVID recession hit women much harder than men, and will compound women’s lifetime economic disadvantage.

While the economy as a whole continues to recover, unemployment and underemployment remain too high, especially for vulnerable groups such as single parents, who are predominantly women. 

The Grattan Institute found that women who became unemployed or left work in the recession face longer-term impacts on their wages and career progression. According to Grattan, six months out of work can add another $100,000 to the average $2 million lifetime earnings gap between men and women with children in Australia.

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Speaking on the widening of the gender gap in unpaid work, Roger Wilkins, co-author of the HILDA report, said it “seems likely” COVID would have increased the unpaid work disparity.

“The increase in childcare provided at home brought about by closure of childcare centres and learning from home is likely to have been disproportionately borne by women,” says Mr Wilkins.

A separate study released by Financy showed that setbacks for equality were seen in education, underemployment, employment and unpaid work, as gender gaps widened in the December quarter.

The latest Financy’s Finance Women’s Index fell by 2.3 points or 3 per cent to 74 points in the December quarter, with women experiencing a slower employment recovery than their male counterparts, which will mean it will take women an estimated 101 years to achieve financial gender equality. 

“At the current rate of progress, economic equality for women is still a long way away,” says Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, author of the Financy Women’s Index.

“The index shows that we are unlikely to see equality in Australia until the year 2122.

“Without significant change, it’s likely that women will continue to participate in paid work at a reduced capacity to men, and this will affect women’s financial security and progress,” says Ms Hartge-Hazelman.

However, despite a disappointing back half to 2020 in annual terms, women’s financial progress is headed in the right direction, and finished the year 1.3 points higher for 2020, compared with 72.7 points in December 2019. 

The index peaked at 76.3 points in the September quarter.

The study showed that women had a stronger year at an ASX 200 level, with appointments for board positions up 6 percentage points to 32.6. This helped drive the index higher and cushion the December quarter employment growth shortfall.

The Women’s Index also showed that it is expected to take 21 years to achieve equality in the national gender pay gap, 33 years in employment, 18 years in underemployment, seven years for women on boards and 38 years to close the gender gap in superannuation savings.

“To speed up progress, we need cultural change to recognise the benefits of a more gender diverse workplace and greater female participation in it at all levels,” says Dr Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital.

“This starts in the nation’s schools and runs all the way to boardrooms and the nation’s parliaments. The pandemic has shown that the technology – to enable greater workplace diversity through workplace flexibility – is there to help make this happen,” says Mr Oliver.

Women still face 101-year wait for financial gender equality
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About the author

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Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

About the author

author image
Cameron Micallef

Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

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