Gender equality index drops despite closing of super

Progress to gender financial equality reversed in the March quarter despite a significant win in superannuation savings for women which saw the gender gap narrowing by the most in over a decade.

The Financy Women’s Index (FWX) fell 1.6% to 72.2 in the March quarter, making it the worst start to a calendar year in a decade for gender equality progress.

The FWX provided a snapshot on Australian gender equality across seven critical areas: education, employment, underemployment, wages, unpaid work, ASX 200 board gender diversity and superannuation.

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The March quarter result was weighed down by a deterioration in the FWX under-employment sub-index, which measured the gender gap in the under-employment rate. It declined to 63 points from 71 points, as progress in the male underemployment rate improved faster than that of female.

Year on year, the FWX was down 0.9%, taking some of the shine off a more progressive 2021 and recent jobs recovery.

On a more positive note, the superannuation gender gap in median lifetime balances improved to 25%, from 31% in December.

The latest superannuation figures released by the ABS in April showed in the financial year to 30 June 2020, the median lifetime balance for women was $50,000 compared to $67,000 for men.

The narrowing of the superannuation gender gap appeared to be the result of an improvement in the gender pay gap, paid and unpaid employment outcomes for women, and the unprecedented COVID-19 withdrawals under the Federal Liberal government’s Early Release Scheme in 2020.

Years to equality in superannuation was now 19 years while the total timeframe to gender equality remained at 59 years, based on the worst-performing area – unpaid work.

Barrenjoey Capital chief economist, Jo Masters, said: “Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has been jobs-rich, for males and females.

“The Financy Women’s Index captures this with the Employment sub-index improving in the March quarter. That’s good news but it’s offset by the decline in the Underemployment sub-index.

“Accessible and affordable childcare is crucial to supporting females to reach their full potential in the workforce.”

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