The result was supported by records being broken in full-time work, female participation rate, the gender pay gap and the number of women pursuing tertiary education. However a significant gender gap in retirement savings continued to weigh on the Index, as did a slowing in progress in ASX200 corporate board appointments.
While improved economic progress for women was achieved in 2018, the momentum that got us there was also disappointingly slower than in previous years.
The annual pace of progress was 1.7 points less than the year before and travelled at its slowest pace since 2014.
Economic equality, as measured by the FWX Progress Target, is still at least a decade away as long-standing imbalances persist, particularly in labour force and superannuation.
When the December result of the Index is compared with the FWX Progress Target of 173.3 points, it shows women are 37 per cent short of achieving economic equality in Australia.
But I do believe 2019 will be game changer - particularly when it comes to policy and business efforts around closing the national gender pay gap which is currently at a 20-year low of 14.6 per cent.
Gains made in this area are likely to flow through to women’s superannuation and potentially increase financial literacy and engagement.
For the past year, the pay gap and gender diversity have become increasingly important political issues. During the first half of 2018, the Federal Opposition vowed to put more women into senior public positions, deliver actions on pay equality and axe the goods and services tax (GST) on tampons if elected in 2019.
The Federal Government responded by abolishing the tampon tax and putting women’s economic security on the agenda with the release of the Women’s Economic Security Statement and $AU109 million in funding initiatives.
Just months away from the election, Australians now have a much clearer picture of Labor’s plan for equal pay for women, including its proposed changes to the Fair Work Commission.
This is likely to increase debate around women’s economic security and potentially force the government to do more than what is in its Security Statement. That statement has a distinct focus on domestic violence victims and helping them achieve financial independence, as well as measures to boost workforce participation rates beyond current record highs and help support more women in business.
One of the clear areas where more work is needed relates to workforce participation and ensuring the record educational attainment among women is flowing through to the labour force by way of employment and retention after career breaks to have children.