unpaid work future

Women face 101 year wait for financial gender equality

The timeframe to financial gender equality is a century away despite some progress in 2020, shows the Financy Women's Index.

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It’s likely to take 101 years to achieve financial gender equality as the Coronavirus and systemic issues hamper women’s progress in the unpaid work gender gap.

The latest Financy Women’s Index fell by 2.3 points (-3%) to 74 points in the December quarter, reflecting the worst performing quarter since March 2013, as women experienced a slower employment recovery than men.

The timeframe for achieving equality increased to 101 years, from a revised 100 years in the September quarter based on the worst performing sub-index (unpaid work) of the Women’s Index.

At the current rate of progress, economic equality for women is still a long way away.

The Index shows that we are unlikely to see this in Australia until the year 2122.

Without significant willingness for 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.

The Index also found that women are more likely than men to select educational pathways that are linked to lower paid industries. This can have a profound impact on career earnings and gender pay gaps.

“The Index points to a need to reconsider the value of occupations that are traditionally female-dominated such as health, aged and child care,” notes Simone Cheung Partner at Deloitte Access Economics.

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 in 2020.

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

In annual terms, women’s financial progress is headed in the right direction, and finished the year 1.3 points higher for 2020, compared to 72.7 points in December 2019. The Index peaked at 76.3 points in the September quarter.

A stronger year for the appointment of women to ASX200 board positions, up 6 percentage points to 32.6% and the best improvement in the gender pay gap (13.4%) since June 2018, helped drive the Index higher and cushion the December quarter employment growth shortfall.

The Women’s Index also shows it’s expected to take 21 years to achieve equality in the national gender pay gap, 33 years in employment, 18 years in underemployment, 7 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 AMP Capital.

“This starts in the nation’s schools and runs all the way to board rooms 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.

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