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A pink recession: COVID-19’s impact on women’s finances

6 min read
9 Sep 2020

While COVID-19 has made 2020 a tough time for all Australians, it has helped us become more conscious of our finances. In 2020, the average Australian’s Financial Consciousness Index (FCI) score has risen to 51 out of 100, compared to 2019’s average score of 48.[1]

However, it seems that men are slightly outperforming women, with men achieving an average FCI score of 52.82 compared to the women’s average of 48.53.[2]

What is the Financial Consciousness Index?

Our Financial Consciousness Index measures the extent to which you are:

  • financially educated on a range of money topics
  • aware of your ability to influence your financial outcomes
  • willing to act on complex money matters.

The higher the score (out of 100), the more financially conscious you are.

How financially savvy are men compared to women across Australia?

Throughout Australia, men have a marginally higher average FCI score compared to women, though this gap is narrower in some states and territories than in others.

a bar graph showing average FCI scores across Australia by state and gender

COVID-19 is making the pink recession worse

The pink recession refers to a growing financial gap between men and women:

  • on average, men working full time earn $1,889.70 a week, compared to $1,577.30 on average for full-time working women, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS);[3]
  • statistically, women are less likely to have full-time employment compared to men, and women are more likely to leave the workforce or take time out after having children. However, the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) notes that fewer women are leaving the workforce or taking time out to have children compared to previous decades;[4]
  • less weekly earnings (on average) means women have less money in superannuation for retirement, though in recent years this gap has begun to close; and
  • overall, men in Australia have an average net wealth of $449,000 (including super and other financial assets), while women only have an average net wealth of $400,000.[5]

Unfortunately, it appears COVID-19 is exacerbating these factors.

Since February 2020, the number of employed Australians, including full-time, part-time and casual workers, has dropped as various industries have been affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.

When it comes to the number of Australians who became unemployed between February and May, women are also more negatively affected, with slightly fewer men becoming unemployed in this timeframe than women. During this period, the number of employed men decreased by 5.47%, but the number of employed women decreased by 6.94%.[6]

a line chart showing the number of employed men and women in Australia in select months of 2020

Source: Labour force status by Age, Social marital status, and Sex. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Government. 2020.

On top of that, the industries most affected by COVID-19 have a predominately female workforce, as noted by the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).[7] This includes the hospitality, accommodation, tourism sectors, as well as the arts and recreation industry.

How can women improve their financial awareness?

While COVID-19 has presented challenges for all Australians, it appears to be widening financial gaps and other inequalities between men and women, as noted by the WGEA.[8] So, what can women do to improve their own financial awareness?

David Ruddiman, our General Manager of Digital Banking, says being proactive is key.

‘Simple steps, no matter how small, can make a difference to your budget. Identify where you can find savings and start from there.’

– David Ruddiman, General Manager of Digital Banking

Here are a few tips for strengthening your financial outcomes:

  1. Seek financial assistance if you need it

If you’re struggling with bills or falling behind on repayments (especially if it’s due to the stressful financial impact of COVID-19), then reach out to your bank or insurance provider to let them know about your situation. Many have implemented COVID-19 specific financial assistance programs on top of existing hardship support.

  1. Strengthen your super

There are a couple of ways you can improve your super fund savings for retirement. You could make additional after-tax contributions, and if you earn under $54,837 a year before tax, you could be eligible to receive additional co-contributions from the government (up to a limit).[9]

If you’re married or in a de-facto relationship, and your partner earns more than you, you could discuss spousal super contributions with them. This is where your spouse or partner directs money from of their pre-tax super contributions to your super fund, and in the process, they could be eligible for a tax offset themselves.[10]

  1. Make household finances a team effort

Whether you or your partner handles the bills, there are benefits to tackling your household budget together beyond just being on the same page.

‘Understanding your financial goals as a team and agreeing on where your savings should go can not only improve your own financial literacy, but it can help alleviate financial stress,’ says Ruddiman.

  1. Check if you’re eligible for tax offsets in your tax return

Low and middle-income earners in Australia may be eligible for tax offsets, which can reduce the amount of tax you need to pay each financial year.

  1. Make an emergency savings fund

Sometimes the unexpected can set back even the best-laid budgets and savings plans, so it pays to put a little aside into a dedicated savings fund for those rainy days.

  1. Look for savings wherever you can

From groceries to pets to daily activities and how we get around, there can be plenty of opportunities for small savings. Ruddiman encourages all Australians to see where they can save.

‘Small changes can make a difference to your household budget,’ he explains.

‘You can use the savings to help pay off debts, save up for future special purchases like a small holiday or birthday and Christmas presents. You can also feed into an emergency fund for those rainy days, providing extra peace of mind.’

If you’re not sure where to start, our savings tips generator can help provide some inspiration.

You can save on big-ticket options too, says Ruddiman,

‘Are you on the cheapest energy plan, or could you find a better deal on your car insurance? Comparing your options and switching to a more competitive product could help you save money on recurring financial expenses.’

  1. Test your own financial consciousness

Want to test your level of financial consciousness? Take our 2020 quiz and see how you score. We also have a free eBook by financial guru Melissa Browne, Money made Simples, available to read and download for free if you want to learn more about financial consciousness.

Sources:

[1] Dollars and sense: Compare the Market’s Financial Consciousness Index (Third Edition). Deloitte Access Economics, Compare the Market. 2020.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, May 2020. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Government. 2020.

[4] Families Then & Now: How we worked. Diana Warren, Lixia Qu, Jennifer Baxter, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australian Government. 2020.

[5] Females closing the gender wealth gap. Roy Morgan. 2019.

[6] Labour force status by Age, Social marital status, and Sex. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Government. 2020.

[7] Gendered impact of COVID-19. Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Australian Government. 2020.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Super co-contributions. Australian Taxation Office, Australian Government. 2020.

[10] Super-related tax offsets. The Australian Taxation Office, Australian Government. 2020.

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Written by James McCay

James is a devoted husband, father, animal lover and history buff (particularly medieval history). He studied Creative and Professional Writing at QUT, and is often buried in a book. James also enjoys historical re-enactment, spending time with his dogs, and making furniture out of reclaimed wood. He hopes to make a positive difference for readers through his writing.

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