Women’s Index brushes off sluggish progress in 2019 to finish decade on a high

SYDNEY – Friday January 31, 2020

Key results
• The 2019 December quarter delivered a strong finish to the decade, helped by a number of fresh records set in women’s financial progress.
• However the pace of 2019 progress disappointed, declining by over half of what was achieved in 2018.
• Year-on-year the Index rose 1.7 per cent to finish at 119.9 points, compared to 117.8 points in December 2018.
• In the December quarter, the Index rose 0.9 per cent from a revised 118.8 points in the September quarter.
• 2019 progress was helped by records being broken in full-time employment, the participation rate, tertiary education enrolments and in the gender gaps in pay and super.

The new decade has started on a high note for many Australian women after the economic progress measurement, the Financy Women’s Index, posted its best performance of 2019 in the December quarter.

The Financy Women’s Index rose 0.9 per cent to a high of 119.9 points in the December quarter, up from 118.8 points in the September quarter, however the pace of progress declined by more than half of what was achieved in prior years.

Founder of the Financy Women’s Index, Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, said she’s surprised by the result given the disappointing start to 2019.

“By almost all measures it was looking like 2019 would go down as being the worst year in a decade for women’s financial progress.

“But momentum changed during the December quarter after fresh records were broken with the number of women on ASX 200 boards, female tertiary education enrolments, full-time and part-time employment numbers, as well as the participation and underemployment rates,” said Ms Hartge-Hazelman.

The Index improved by 1.7 per cent (or two points) in the 12 months to December 31, which makes 2019 the fifth slowest year for progress
this decade.

The financial progress of women as measured by the Financy Women’s Index, is calculated by looking at the performance of women relative to men
across eight areas; tertiary education, employment, workforce participation, underemployment, wages, unpaid work, ASX 200 board numbers,
and superannuation.

The top three best years of the past decade for women’s financial progress were in 2018 (4.7 points), followed by 2016 (4 points) and 2015 (3.2 points).

According to Ernst & Young chief economist, Joanna Masters, the latest Index  shows that the world still shoulders bias pertaining to women in the workforce.

“There is work to be done and I’m disappointed to see the pace of progress slow on some key issues, notably the gender pay gap which narrowed at the
slowest pace in a decade last year. Focus needs to remain razor sharp – by business, governments and individuals,” said Ms Masters.

Among the specific standout signs of progress for women in 2019 was data showing the greatest level of engagement among Australian women in the
full-time workforce.

Over the past 12 months the female participation rate increased to 61.2 per cent from 60.52 per cent in December 2018.

The number of women in full-time employment rose by 4 per cent to a seasonally adjusted 3.34 million in the December quarter from 3.22 million
at the end of 2018.

The female underemployment rate declined year-on-year to 10.4 per cent but it is still higher than where it was a decade ago.

A major victory was won for women on the boards of listed companies during the December quarter with female directors now occupying 30.7 per cent of ASX 200 board positions.

“The latest Financy Women’s Index reflects a strong quarter particularly for women on boards,” said Onevue CEO Connie Mckeage, adding that as we
close the chapter on 2019, “we need to reflect on the goals set to date and be even more ambitious for the decade to come.

“The need to push for a more diverse, fair working environment for all has never been more important.”

Women continue to outnumber men in tertiary education studies however the gender balance in fields linked to higher pay outcomes remains
disproportionate in favour of men.

Despite record tertiary enrolment growth for females in 2019, in areas such as engineering and related technologies, architecture and building and
information technology (IT), women are underrepresented and, in some cases, by as much as two to seven.

The gender gap in unpaid work for couples, regardless of whether they have children, fell to a new low of 60 per cent in the latest 2018 data.

The unpaid work data from the yet to be published 2018 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey found that while the gender gap in unpaid work for couples narrowed, the imbalance remains significant.

In paid employment, the average wage disparity between full-time working women and men narrowed to 14.02 per cent in 2019 from 14.53 per cent
in 2018.

The three industries with the biggest reductions in their gender pay gaps in 2019 include rental, hiring and real estate services and mining, which is the highest paying sector for both genders.

The average Australian woman also has a lower superannuation balance compared to her male peers and, according to the Association of Financial
Advisers (AFA) Inspire community, national chair, Kate McCallum, this needs to be better addressed.

“Women still have a serious retirement shortfall, with a median balance for those nearing retirement of $122,848.

“This is less than a quarter the ideal amount for a comfortable retirement.

“It’s even worse for divorced women, who have a median super balance of one-quarter than that of a single person household and one-sixth of couple
households,” said Ms McCallum.

About the Financy Women’s Index:

The Financy Women’s Index measures and tracks the economic progress of Australian women on a quarterly basis.

The Index supported by Grafa®, formerly Data Digger, and is designed to encourage women to live fearlessly by empowering them with information, on the trends, opportunities and actions that can be taken to enhance economic wellbeing.

The Index is based on monthly, quarterly, biannually, and two-yearly data and methodology from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), the Australian Tax Office (ATO), the Australian Government Department of Education and Training and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

The Financy Women’s Index is an independent report, which is sponsored by Australian listed fintech company OneVue, AMP Financial Planning, the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA). It is also a partner of the Economic Security 4 Women.

For media enquires or information on the data contained in the report, please contact:

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman
Founder Financy Women’s Index:

0403 656 399