International Women’s Day

Today, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to pause to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness and reflect about gender equality.

The Socialist Party of America is the first organisation recognised for declaring a National Women’s Day in 1909.  Following an international conference of working women in Copenhagen the first International Women’s Day was held in 1911 with rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, to be trained and educated, and to hold public office.

We have come a long way in the journey building on the actions of generations of women who have continued to battle for equality and equity – economic, social and political.

And the battle for economic parity is still very real.  

Traditional female vocations and professions are still paid less on average than traditional male vocations and professions.  Recent research showed a 9.5 per cent gender pay gap (the difference in median hourly earnings for men and women) in NZ.   Childbirth and childcare interrupts study, training and employment impacting on progression through their careers and not being considered for opportunities or higher paid positions due to family commitments.  The high percentage of women relying on part time, casual work and working for more than one employer are low paid and less likely to access Kiwisaver.   Data shows 75% of women stop their Kiwisaver contributions when they have a child compounded by very few employers opting to continue to pay the employer contribution during periods of parental leave.

The flow-on from those interruptions and lack of the same opportunities or level of income impacts on long-term economic stability leaving women significantly economically disadvantaged when they reach retirement age.  Women are less likely to own their own home and Maori women even less likely than non-Maori women.    Women relying solely on government superannuation cannot meet the demands of rising rents, or the costs of paying mortgages/rates/insurance if they own their own home.   Recent Australian research shows women over the age of 55 are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia.   Termed as hidden homelessness, the increasing number of older women unable to keep their home (rented or owned) is a real challenge for us now and into the future.   

Today is an opportunity to think about how those damning statistics will impact on our communities now and for future generations, and to consider what we can do to stem the slide into poverty for older women.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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