Home Join the Chat Work A Woman’s Work – Is it Ever Enough?

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    Kate Thomas

    More women than ever are in paid work in Australia – of those aged 55-59, 63.8% were in paid work in 2016. That’s an increase of 35% since 1995. We are working longer, more hours, and in less secure employment. Three quarters of all part-time workers are women, and we cope with unpredictable pay, inferior rights, and entitlements, limited or no leave, irregular hours and limited job security.

    While we are paid less for our work (the gender pay gap is around 17%) we are doing more. Combine the hours in paid work with family responsibilities and money worries. Then mix in some workplace age discrimination (reported by over 65% of women over 50) a relationship problem, or a cut in working hours (meaning a drop in income). Things can feel a little scary!

    Women over 50 are relatively invisible in the statistics on paid work. While there is much research on women and childcare, once we have raised our children (does it end when they leave home?) we become far less interesting to study. But it is safe to say that we work more casual hours than younger women, or men, and along with men over 50, we suffer more age discrimination when looking for work.

    Reading between the lines, we probably bear some hardships. We are recognised less for our skills and experience, and we are obviously paid less with less benefits. We are vulnerable at work. What does that mean?

    We are often care for younger and older family, so we NEED our paid jobs (the income and the security). Yet because we are carers, we may need flexibility, so our job security is in the balance. We are often single, so we need that job to pay for accommodation. If we are married or in a partnership, we battle similar issues. We have less superannuation, because we’ve been paid less all our working life, and we need work to save for retirement. So our employers can take advantage of our vulnerability, demanding more and more. We give more and more, because we need the job. We fight back less, because we know it won’t be so easy to get another job.

    While balancing all the changes occurring around 50, many women suffer inequity at work. While we enjoy more choices than previous generations at this age, we have new and unexpected barriers to retiring and living well. Women 50 and beyond must join forces, speak out, and be heard. We contribute, we have much to offer, and we must be recognised.

    What does work mean in your life?

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