Formula of Women’s Poverty

For the first time, we are now able to estimate the lifetime earnings that women lose as a result of caregiving. These can amount to almost $AUD 500,000. This is what unpaid caregiving for children and parents costs women over the course of their careers in pay and promotion, and cuts to their retirement savings, according to a first-of-its-kind report by the U.S. Department of Labor.

We can extrapolate that the figures would be roughly comparable in Australia. This loss of anywhere up to half a million dollars in earnings, helps us to understand why women are ageing into poverty and homelessness. It provides us with the missing piece in designing a formula exposing the probability of women ageing into poverty. 

Let’s sketch this ‘formula’:

GENDER PAY GAP 13.3%  +  UNPAID CARING <$500,000  +  AGE >50


Women’s poverty as they age is almost predictable because of these key variables of this formula: gender pay gap, financial loss due to unpaid care, and age discrimination.

This formula explains why men retire in a much stronger financial position than women.

The formula also explains why women end up on Jobseeker.

Women below the age of 50 who are currently in the workforce do not need to be fortune tellers to know that their financial situation could be very precarious if they become unemployed or when they retire. They just need to see the news reports about women aged over 50 constituting the majority on Jobseeker, as well as being the fastest growing demographic becoming homeless.

This systemic gender and age discrimination in the workforce makes it extremely difficult for women to become financially independent and build their own long term economic security. 

Marriage is not a financial plan as many women find themselves bereft of assets in divorce proceedings. Certainly having a home is a bulwark, but it is not a guarantee. A great number of older women still have mortgages and have now been forced to sell their homes because they have too little income to pay for rising interest rates. The below poverty level of Jobseeker is a key reason women lose their homes. 

The bottom line is that as long as the formula remains unchanged, the next generation of women and the ones after that will continue to age into poverty and homelessness.

This will remain true as long as the gender pay gap persists.

This will remain true as long as caring is unpaid work and is not calculated as a recognised part of GDP. 

This will remain true as long as women bear the disproportionate costs of caring.

This will remain true as long as the rate of Jobseeker keeps women impoverished. 


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