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Caring for children number one barrier to work for women

New yearly statistics have found that nearly two-thirds of women looking after their children would prefer to be working in some capacity but are unable to do so.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation for the 2023 financial year found that caring for children remained the greatest barrier for women wanting to be in the workforce. 

According to the ABS, in 2022-23, out of 5.1 million parents with children aged under 15 years, 700,000 were out of work.

But about 85 per cent of out of work parents with children were mothers and more than half of them — some 54 per cent — had at least one child under four years old.

“Most parents with children under 15 who were out of work said that caring for children was the main barrier to employment,” ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said. 

“However, the data also provides important insights into preferences. About 40 per cent of out of work parents said they preferred not to work and to stay home to look after children.”

The most important incentives to get parents with children into the work force, according to the data, were:

  • Ability to work school hours (56.4 per cent rated as very important).
  • Ability to work part-time hours (55.9 per cent).
  • Financial assistance with childcare costs (53.5 per cent).

Of course, caring for your children while they are young is the right of any parent, but it does potentially come with unequal financial implications that are likely to have future consequences — especially is the relationship breaks down. 

This financial fact is one of the main reasons why we wrote The Female Investor – Creating Wealth, Security & Freedom Through Property, because we are continuing to see significantly different financial outcomes for men and women in this country.

However, purchasing a property when a woman is younger and single as well as retaining ownership of it independently of any future partner, can be one simple way to underpin your personal financial position. 

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More women in management 

While statistics like these ones can seem somewhat depressing, there continues to be positive change for women in the workforce.

In fact, more women in management positions is driving a decline in the gender pay gap, but every industry and almost three in four employers still have gender pay gap larger than five per cent in favour of men, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

The WGEA released its annual update on the state of workplace gender equality recently, which revealed the average total remuneration gender pay gap has dropped to 21.7 per cent in 2023.

It’s a decrease of 1.1 percentage points (from 22.8 per cent in 2022) – the second largest single year drop since WGEA started collecting employer data in 2014.

It means on average, for every $1 men earn in Australia, women earn 78 cents.

The average annual pay difference between men and women has narrowed by $1,322, but a gap of $26,393 still remains.

What is the gender pay gap?

According to the WGEA, the gender pay gap is a measure of how we value the contribution of men and women in the workforce.

Expressed as a percentage or a dollar figure it shows the difference between the average earnings of women and men.

Closing the gender pay gap is important for Australia’s economic future and reflects our aspiration to be an equal and fair society for all.

It’s vital to understand that the gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay. Equal pay is where women and men are paid the same for performing the same role or different work of equal or comparable value and, in Australia, this has been a legal requirement since 1969.

Therefore, gender pay gaps are not a comparison of like roles. Instead, they show the difference between the average pay of women and men across organisations, industries, and the workforce as a whole in Australia.

And while the gender pay gap exists, so, too, will the poorer financial outcomes for women, which is why it is so important for females to prioritise their own financial literacy as well as personal wealth creation efforts. 


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