Financial equality eludes women

Economic equality is unlikely to be achieved until at least 2031, despite women making record progress in the March quarter, according to the latest Financy Women’s Index.

The index, an independent report, is sponsored by Australian listed fintech company OneVue, AMP Financial Planning and the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA), measures the economic progress of Australian women on a quarterly basis.

The index rose 1.9 points to 122.7 points in the March quarter, up from a revised 120.8 points in December 2018. The result reflects the fastest pace of women’s quarterly progress in two years, according to index founder Bianca Hartge-Hazelman. It was helped by record female full-time employment, workforce participation, improved educational enrolments and earnings growth relative to men as reflected in a record low of the gender pay gap.

However, Australian women were 34 per cent short or on current trends, 12 years away – at the current rate of improvement – from achieving financial equality.

“We still have too many Australian women unable to realise their economic potential,” said Ms Hartge-Hazelman.

“Surprisingly, in a time of rising employment, there are women who are still underpaid and the female underemployment rate is worse than a decade ago.”

On International Women’s Day, YourLifeChoices sought your views in the Friday Flash Poll on women’s key concerns.

Financial security was top (26 per cent), personal safety in the community was next (15 per cent), followed by family breakdown and abuse (13 per cent), physical and mental health concerns (13 per cent), affordable housing (11 per cent), coping with the physical challenges of ageing (11 per cent), loneliness (four per cent), ability to continue to care for others (two per cent) and transport availability (two per cent).

Other concerns raised by respondents included employment opportunities for women aged 55-plus and abuse of women and children in the home.

Asked which issues should be fixed today, and financial security (33 per cent) was again the top issue followed by personal safety in public (19 per cent), equal opportunity in the workplace (17 per cent) and suitable compensation for carers (nine per cent). Surprisingly, only four per cent wanted immediate action to narrow the superannuation gap, perhaps a likely indication the issue is in hand.

We also asked if baby boomer women should receive a more generous Age Pension to compensate for their smaller – or absent – superannuation balances (median balances for 55 to 59-year-old men in 2015–16 were $115,000 and for women $50,000). An overwhelming 70 per cent of the poll’s 383 respondents said yes.

The poll evoked a strong response from members, and sexist attitudes would seem to be alive and well. However, there were also many measured and responsible comments, including:

“A liveable universal pension, assured, reasonable, safe accommodation where people have access to and participation in the community … with effective income distribution to have this happen … a true ‘common wealth’. This sounds like a civilised society that values all peoples of all ages.” ~ Zen

“I agree the past was dismal, but that by no means justifies any ‘catch-up’ or ‘make-up’ by ‘punishing’ men as some feminists seek to do …” ~ TREBOR

“Fact is most women in Australia are comfortable in their own skin and are in caring and loving family relationships. Most of these have no time for this leftie-promoted fake event (International Women’s Day).” ~ Not a Bludger

“I find the selection ‘narrow the superannuation gap’ quite offensive. There should be no superannuation gap or any other gap. Gender should never be even mentioned when it comes to things like super, wages, positions.” ~ Ted Wards

“So many of us have spent our lives caring for our partners, children, parents, families and even the community and it is just expected. Beside that, we often worked full or part time and though we age equally, it is mostly the women who continue to do the caring for their grumpy old men. I was dismissed when I married and it was years before we had equal pay in my profession. It was extremely difficult to get permanency and thus I ended with a ridiculously small super, even though I worked (between having children) for well over 30 years.” ~ Omacarla

Is sexism in the community still as much of an issue as ageism? What has been your experience of sexist or ageist situations?

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Janelle Ward
Janelle Ward
Energetic and skilled editor and writer with expert knowledge of retirement, retirement income, superannuation and retirement planning.
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