Gender inequality remains one of the most pervasive and far-reaching forms of inequality in our society. Despite some important progress in recent years, women are still more likely to live in poverty and experience financial insecurity than their male counterparts.
Although gendered poverty is experienced universally by women, an overlay of marginalisation and discrimination mean that some women are at a greater risk of poverty than others.
At Juno, all of the women that we support are living in poverty. For them, living in poverty means struggling to cover their (or their children’s) essential needs in a sustainable and dignified way. This could include rent, groceries, medical appointments or childcare – and they are often forced to make a choice between critical items that most of us take for granted.
There are several factors that can overlap to make women more financially vulnerable than men.
- Low wages and precarious employment: Women earn $25,679 less than men each year on average and are more likely to be employed in casual and part-time work.
- Inadequate support: Jobseeker, a scheme accessed by a third of Juno’s clients, provides only $676.80 per fortnight for a woman with two children, a rate that has not increased in real terms in over 25 years. This is well below the poverty line for a parent with two children which is $731 per week.
- Parenting costs and unpaid care work: Women make up 82% of single-parent households, and many have to shoulder parenting costs alone, which also compromises employment opportunities. They are therefore more likely to present to homelessness services with children in their care.
On top of this, family and domestic violence also reduces women’s economic security and is a significant cause of homelessness for women and their children – it is this issue that brings many women to Juno’s services.
These factors, coupled with the unaffordable cost of housing, make women especially vulnerable to poverty and homelessness.
What is being done?
The existing Australian homelessness service system is largely crisis-oriented and does not meet the demand for services or reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness. This reality led Juno to focus on improving long-term economic security for women through the introduction of our EMPower program and other programs that focus on early intervention and prevention, including our Rapid Response Clinic and Powering Future Choices Workshops for women over 50.
You can also check out the Raise the Rate campaign which is calling for an increase to social security payments to keep people out of poverty.