The economic wellbeing of women is likely to become an increasingly influential factor in Australian political decision-making in the period ahead.
Increased focus on gender pay and superannuation gaps and a lack of leadership on gender diversity has seen the major political parties, particularly the Federal Labor party, announce measures targeted at women ahead of the next federal election.
Indeed on the same day as the Financy Women’s Index showed women are making economic progress, we received welcome news that the states and territories have unanimously agreed to pass the Federal Government’s proposal to axe the 10 per cent tax on women’s sanitary products like tampons and pads.
Abolishing the tampon tax is a win for women and households, and we expect more measures could follow in the period ahead to improve the economic wellbeing of women.
Here’s a look at some of the key measures already underway or proposed by both major parties.
The Liberal Party
We’ve got the Federal Government focusing on its new superannuation reforms as ways to help women close the retirement savings gap.
This includes a move to have opt-in insurance and banning exit fees on low balance accounts, plus being able to carry forward unused contributions limits.
All the while the government is pushing to increase female workforce participation and is promising to deliver an economic security statement this Spring with more unknown measures on the agenda.
The Labor Party
On the other hand Labor has promised to address the gender pay gap through additional company reporting requirements and help close the superannuation gap via top up payments and gradually allow earnings under $450 a month to attract super.
It’s also committing to reinstating an annual women’s budget statement to make gender equity a factor in all policy decisions.
Meanwhile on top of it all, many Australian businesses have also launched diversity programs and enhanced superannuation benefits to help improve gender equality while also appealing to female employees – current and future.
The gains achieved by better supporting the economic wellbeing of women through initiatives that increase workforce participation, wealth, wages, educational opportunities and financial literacy are significant for women, men, families and our country.
In this September quarter report, the Financy Women’s Index shows that women are making steady progress to overcome economic inequality helped by improved full-time employment, a narrowing of the gender pay gap and increased board representation in the ASX 200.
But the pace of progress, social, political and business changes taking place don’t tell us enough about what economic equality looks like as an aspirational target.
What we endeavored to do in this report is provide a guide of what an economic progress score could look like if Australia didn’t have gender pay or superannuation wealth gaps.
This would also be a place where ASX 200 board gender diversity was balanced, workforce participation rates between men and women were equal, full-time female employment were higher and tertiary education enrolments maintained its current relative growth.
This economic target is a tentative estimate and the assumptions made will undergo fine-tuning as we attempt to reflect deeper structural and cultural issues as well as predict future workforce and family trends.
“The introduction of a target for the Financy Women’s Index is an exciting development. It means that the Financy Women’s Index can be used to measure not just the progress that has been made, but the work yet to be done,” said Jo Masters senior economist ANZ.
“This is valuable for shaping the future debate and helping to maintain momentum on the range of issues that are measured by this Index.”
The Financy Women’s Index has an important role to play in helping to improve policy outcomes by providing thought leaders with insights and suggested discussion points to the actions that may enhance women’s economic progress.
I’m excited about what this could mean for women, Australian families and future generations.
It is also my hope that the Women’s Index will empower more women to become fearless in life by giving them timely information on the opportunities and benefits of enhancing their financial wellbeing.