Women in the workforce

Women have made great strides in the workplace over the past few decades. Changing social attitudes, smaller families and improved access to education have combined to transform women's working lives

Changing the way we work

Women have made great strides in the workplace over the past few decades. Changing social attitudes, smaller families and improved access to education have combined to transform women's working lives.1

The proportion of women who are employed has increased from 44% in the late 1970s to 59% in 2013. And women now account for around 39% of total hours worked, up from 30% in 1978.2

We've come a long way. But there's still a long way to go.

Much of the increase in female participation has been in part-time and casual employment. And women returning to work after having children still face barriers - both inside and outside the workplace.

'Ideal worker' or 'juggler'?

One significant barrier can be cultural. In some workplaces, the concept of the traditional 'ideal worker' is still alive and well.

Traditionally the 'ideal worker' is a full-time employee working set hours in a single job for 40 years straight. They don't arrive late after the school drop off or leave work early to pick up their kids. And they don't take time off to look after sick family members.3

The 'juggler', on the other hand, does the lion's share of the home duties, takes more responsibility for looking after elderly relatives and has to rush home for the kids.

Despite recent changes in gender roles, the 'ideal worker' is still more often male, while the 'juggler' is more often female.4

This makes it difficult for working mothers to balance work with other responsibilities and rise through the ranks, adding to the 'glass ceiling' effect.5

Counting the cost

Another potential barrier to women re-entering the workforce after having children is the cost of child care.

Child care costs have increased by more than 44 per cent in the past five years, according to a new AMP.NATSEM report.6 While it varies around the country - from regional Queensland to Sydney Harbour - the bottom line is, child care isn't cheap...and it's getting more expensive.

In recent years, child care has risen more than education, petrol and health costs.

So many women face a dilemma when going back to work. Women are not only faced with covering the cost of child care, but as they increase their working hours, they lose child care benefits and pay more income tax, making the financial gain of returning to work negligible for some. And the less they earn, the bigger the impact. So for many women it's difficult to justify returning to work - particularly women on lower incomes.

Childcare in numbers*

  • The cost of child care has increased by 10% a year over the past 10 years
  • The average Australian family spends $9,315 on child care upfront, with 54% subsidised by the government, leaving them $4,325 out of pocket
  • Placing a child in long day care can cost up to $170 a day.
  • The average Australian mother loses about 60 per cent her hourly wage when returning to work full-time after having kids - that's when factoring in the cost of child care, income tax and loss of Government benefits.
  • Middle income mothers who work part-time fare a little better, losing about 45 per cent of their pay, but mums already working part-time, who decide to increase their hours to full-time, will lose a massive 75 per cent of their pay for those extra hours of work.
  • Women with children in formal child care save the government $7 billion in taxes and by working.
  • Long day care is the most commonly used form of child care with 30% of total hours, followed by grandparents who provide 23%.

* AMP. NATSEM Income and Wealth Report on child care affordability in Australia, June 2014
~AMP Retirement Adequacy Index, 2012.

Everyone's a winner

Despite the short-term financial challenges, returning to work can have real long-term benefits for your female employees.

They get to maintain their skills, protect their future earning capacity and keep their super topped up. The AMP.NATSEM report says that in spite of the high costs most women will ultimately be financially better off by staying in the labour market and using quality childcare.

Win-win-win

Increasing female participation in the workplace can be good for everyone.

It's good for your business...

Creating a flexible workplace helps you attract and retain experienced employees, become an employer of choice and stand out from your peers.

...good for the government...

Working mothers help to relieve the pressure from an ageing population by saving the government through lower pensions, allowances and family payments.

...and good for your employees

The average super balance for men aged 50 to 59 is almost double that of women - $93,833compared with $54,720.~

Working mothers get to build their careers and their super while their children get the benefits of early learning.

And there can be real benefits for employers. Sure, it can be inconvenient to accommodate maternity placements and flexible working arrangements.

But if you want to attract and retain the best people, you need to become an employer of choice. This means enabling different work patterns and promoting cultural diversity in the office that reflects the real world, rather than one narrow type of ideal worker.

Diversity in the workplace isn't just a 'nice to have'. It can help improve your bottom line. An inclusive culture that leverages diverse perspectives can spark innovative thought and support robust discussion to drive outstanding results.

Diversity of people
=
Diversity of thought
=
Better decisions

=
Business success
+
A place where high-performing
people choose to work

Tearing down the barriers

The AMP.NATSEM report calls for 'a changed work culture where child care is viewed as a shared responsibility of the mother, father and the employer'.

Of course, every family is different. And parents should have the right to choose how they bring up their children. Some mothers may prefer to stay at home and look after their kids. And in other families, the father might take on more responsibility at home.

But it's important that women are aware of the impact of their choices on their economic situation-both right now and down the track when they are approaching retirement.

So we can all play an important role.

At AMP we can help your employees become more aware of their retirement savings by monitoring their super with our digital solutions, which allow them to easily access their finances, when and where they want to.

  • Our mobile app lets them manage money while they're on the move.
  • Our iPad app lets them explore financial options from the couch.
  • Our new My Portfolio web experience gives them total control from their computer screen.

And it's not just super. We can also help to build awareness of the issues and improve women's financial literacy.

  • Speak to your AMP representative about getting AMP in to hold a seminar to help women better understand their finances.

And you play an important role as an employer of choice. As well as creating a flexible workplace, you can:

1 ABS, Trends in Women's Employment, 2006
2 AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report on child care affordability in Australia, June 2014.
3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_workforce
4 Striking the Balance: Women, men, work and family, 2005: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/sex_discrimination/publication/strikingbalance/docs/STB_Final.pdf
5 Striking the Balance: Women, men, work and family, 2005: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/sex_discrimination/publication/strikingbalance/docs/STB_Final.pdf
6 AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report on child care affordability in Australia, June 2014.

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