A recent report revealed that half a million women over the age of 60 (34 per cent) in Australia are currently living below the poverty line and have been for an extended period of time. In comparison, 24 per cent of couples and 27 per cent of older men live in poverty. The report, commissioned by Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, was accompanied by an urgent call for affordable housing for seniors.
Research conducted throughout Australia determined there are several reasons women are forced into a life of poverty. The most common are the loss of a job, the end of a marriage, a spouse’s death, and becoming injured or sick. Additionally, the study pointed out that a “complex mix of circumstances” are linked to why so women live in poverty, including the superannuation system, workplace casualisation, and family violence. When women retire at 65 years old, they do so with around a third of the superannuation accrued by men. 60 per cent of their income comes from government benefits.
Many people, organisations and government agencies have limited knowledge and understanding of the important issue because of the poor data available. One main reason is a lot of data is still collected, analysed, and interpreted based on the age categories of 65-plus, with little differentiation of gender. To compound it, gerontology units worldwide are being closed and that there has been a decrease in university-based ageing research on areas including women and poverty due to research funding favoring bio-medical studies.
“A Strong National Voice” is Needed
According to the study, “a strong national voice” conveying strategies designed to achieve gender equity in various areas, such as pay, flexible employment, and superannuation, is the key to improving the situation.
The research, based on a literature review, as well as a variety of interviews with service providers and ageing experts, found that “apart from service delivery organisations, local government, and advocacy networks that support women’s organisations are sparse.” Additionally, they frequently do not have a high profile.
Immediate Action is Required
To improve the living situation of older women, the report strongly suggests partnerships between researchers, the government, the business sector and community associations with a focus on creating and implementing affording housing models. Currently, progress is just not being made!