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Why Equal Pay Day matters

This year Equal Pay Day falls on Wednesday August 28. Today represents the extra 59 days women have to work this financial year to earn the same as men do in a year. Calculated using the 14% gender pay gap for full time workers, with women earning $241.50 less per week then men do on average, women therefore need to work an additional 59 days a year to earn the same amount that men do (currently, average weekly wages for men working full time are $1,726.30). It’s not to be taken literally of course, but as a symbolic reminder of the disparity between earnings.

As with most things relating to gender equality (or anything topical really), with most people being generally supportive, Equal Pay Day can be a divisive topic, with some camps finding it difficult to see why we should be making a fuss, questioning why we can’t just get on with things and stop the complaining.  Why do people keep banging on about the same stuff year in year out?

But symbolic days such as Equal Pay Day provide an important way to keep the conversation going.  In reality we need to have moments like this etched into our busy calendars because it’s an important conversation to have for a few reasons. These reasons can in short be put down to the sentiment of “the playing field is so far from level it’s not funny”. Here are a few wildly horrifying statistics to give you a taste for what the financial future looks like for many women:

Firstly, women retire with a lot less than what men do. Owing to a complex combination of workplace patterns, increased likelihood to take time off work in order to provide care for younger (and older) people as well as differences in the way we value and remunerate the jobs performed by (mostly) women in a highly gender segregated workforce is just the tip of the iceberg as to why women accumulate less super over their working life. But retiring with estimates of just under half the super as men, means that we’re have a lot less to live off that we now need to stretch it even further given that we live longer than men.  In fact latest research indicates that women will outlive their retirement savings by 12.6 years.

Women are more likely to live in poverty – with this significant shortfall in superannuation and a greater reliance on the aged pension as a result, women are therefore more likely to face financial insecurity and poverty in older age. In fact around one in three retired women on the single rate of the Age Pension will remain in poverty.

Women are experiencing homelessness at higher rates than ever – the number of women aged 55 and over who experience homelessness in Australia has grown by 31% between 2011 and 2016 and this is now the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia. Primary reasons behind women’s homelessness are violence, income inequality along with unaffordable property prices. Often considered as the “hidden homeless” in that you don’t see them “sleeping rough” – they may be living in their cars, or moving from couch to couch or wherever they can find respite in a shelter. But just because you may not see them – please by no means do not think that this enormous group of homeless people are not there. They are very much there.

Hopefully by now you’re seeing that this level playing field analogy is really putting things mildly. And that’s not changing any time soon. Until we transform the way we value women and the work they do in society: by paying those who look after our loved ones just as well as we pay those who clean our teeth or run companies, by having unpaid work more evenly shared between men and women, and by overhauling the way we work so both genders can spend less time at their desks and more time caring for our families – women will always face a financial shortfall.

To fully address these structural impediments will clearly take some time – let’s not be naive about the magnitude of the changes required, and that’s exactly why we started Longevity App – to provide people, especially women, with a bite sized way to support a life time of work. To make the 80% of household purchasing decisions that they make today actually count towards their future down the track without having to outlay huge sums of money. But there’s no doubt there’s no overnight fix – which is why this is a conversation that we simply cannot afford to stop having. We need to have it not just one day a year but every day of the year.