One of the main concerns being raised about the disproportionate impact of Covid 19 on women is the longer term financial impact and the risk of poverty in old age. Australian women are already retiring on less superannuation than men mainly due to the fact that they move in and out of paid work more than men, and are more likely to be employed in casual or part time work (mainly due to their parenting and caregiving responsibilities). But with women over-represented in job loss, lost hours, over-representation in the occupations and industries most affected, more likely to be in casual, part time or insecure work, and “electing” to reduce hours or leave the labour market due to pandemic-related caring and household work their superannuation contributions are likely to be reduced placing them at further risk of economic security. The UNDP gender tracker found Australia has introduced zero COVID response measures targeting women’s economic security. In the 2020 Women’s Economic Security Statement foreword Minister for Women Marise Payne identifies increasing women’s workforce participation as an economic and social priority and says the 2020 statement expands on the 2018 statement which focused on three pillars – workforce participation, earning potential and economic independence. She says the statement “is building on initiatives in the Government’s overarching JobMaker Plan for an economic recovery that creates jobs, increases women’s work choices, addresses barriers to women working in the paid workplace, and ensures that women experiencing violence can access support and enter and remain in paid work”. But the response to the budget by many experts has not been positive.
Because of its link to paid work superannuation has never been an ideal retirement plan for ADF partners (it should go without saying but I’m afraid it doesn’t, that marrying someone in the ADF is also NOT a retirement plan). In addition to the factors experienced by Australian women in general, ADF partner employment and earnings are also affected by the mobility that comes with military life. The 2015 ADF census data reveals that over half of ADF partners had changed jobs between one and five times due to service-related relocations. Over half were out of work between one and six months following their most recent relocation. And of those partners who changed jobs, more than half earned a lower income than they were earning in their previous jobs. In addition, the family and caring responsibilities of ADF partners can be very demanding due to the nature of ADF careers which includes frequent and/or long absences from home that create solo-parenting situations in ADF families. We know anecdotally that superannuation is a concern for ADF partners. The effects of Covid 19 on job loss and domestic responsibilities of ADF partners may have exacerbated an already troublesome situation and placed ADF partners at even greater risk of long-term financial insecurity.
Note: more to come on this topic at a later date