On International Women’s Day, perhaps we can take the opportunity to reflect upon some of the issues faced by women in Australia and globally. The concept of gendered poverty or “the feminisation of poverty” is not a new one, and women globally are still overrepresented amongst those living in poverty because of a variety of factors which prevent women from being able to participate equally and fully in society.
In Australia, the fastest growing demographic in terms of homelessness is women over 50. The National Older Women’s Housing and Homelessness Working Group’s 2018 report, Retiring into Poverty, cites lower superannuation, unequal pay and time off to undertake unpaid care work as key factors in a 31% increase in homelessness in older women between 2011 and 2016. The Working Group identified that one of the key legal issues that can create a significant vulnerability for women is accessing a fair property settlement and obtaining a superannuation split from their former partner upon separation or divorce.
The Working Group cites Women’s Legal Service Victoria’s 2018 report on economic equality in the family law system, which identified that relationship breakdown “should … be added to the list of causes of gender disparity in superannuation, alongside a persistent gender pay gap and time out of the workforce.”
It seems ironic that in a country as wealthy as Australia, the numbers of homeless women over the age of 50 have risen so dramatically over a five-year period. Let us hope that these sobering statistics will prompt both state and federal governments into action.
For further information please contact:
Katerina Lonergan, Solicitor
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