Money Power Freedom podcast | Ep. 6 The Motherload
This is our final episode and gosh, it’s a doozy! Hosts Cal and Santi get down to the nitty gritty of money and power to find out why women are still being financially penalised for having children (especially single mothers) and how this concerns all of us, kids or no kids. Plus, hear from Dr. Lyndall Strazdins who says that in order to solve the gender pay gap once and for all, first we need to understand the gender gap in time.
Paid vs unpaid work – what’s the difference?
As Jamila Rizvi explains so well in this episode, our modern society, workplaces and economy were basically set up with two distinct roles for men and women. Paid work was designed and dominated by men in the beginning and everything else (the unpaid work) was pretty much left to women.
Unpaid work includes everything from looking after children, breastfeeding, working in the family business without pay, navigating social services to get your elderly parents the help they need, cooking, cleaning, volunteering, driving family members around, you name it.
These unpaid tasks, typically undertaken by women, have only recently been recognised as a “work”.
In episode three, Work in Progress, we explored how Australian women have been entering the paid workforce rapidly in the last 50 years but the problem is we’re still doing most of the unpaid work on top of that. This doubling up of paid work and unpaid work is often referred to as the ‘second shift’.
Women really do hold up half the sky
How significant is all of this unpaid work that (mostly) women do? Feminist economist Dame Marilyn Waring DNZM started exploring this question in the 1980s with her groundbreaking text Counting For Nothing and the rest of the world is only just catching up.
In 2018, Deloitte found that women spend an additional 4 months worth of time on unpaid work than men and 1.4 additional months on paid and unpaid work combined per year.1 If women were remunerated for the unpaid work that they do, it would cost $205 billion per year (representing half of Victoria’s state economy).2
The cost of having children
A huge portion of the unpaid work that Australian women do is child care. Unpaid child care represents a quarter of the Australian economy, worth $409 billion per year.3
The high cost of child care in Australia has implications for women’s paid work. Often, it is more financially viable for parents to stay home and care for children themselves, than it is for children to be placed in formal child care services. This work usually falls to women, impacting their superannuation balance and ability to return to the paid workforce.
As things currently stand, too often women are financially disadvantaged by having children because our society hasn’t adjusted to their needs, presumes that they aren’t “serious” about their paid work, and don’t deserve any financial reward for the life-changing work that is raising children. What’s more, barriers to financial security are even more pronounced for women who don’t fit into society’s expectations, such as single mothers.
Whether you do or don’t have children, the welfare of future generations is critical to our society as a whole. Parents raising children do important work and deserve our recognition.
Time is Money
This is an issue that everyone has a stake in. Men. Women. Children.
Dr Lyndall Strazdins, Professor and ARC Future Fellow, Research School of Population Health, ANU
Dr. Lyndall Strazdins and her colleagues have been exploring the link between women’s lack of time and poor mental health outcomes.4 Because women do most of the unpaid care in our society,5 women have less opportunity to engage in paid work, pursue hobbies and compete for jobs against others who have more time on their hands.6 It’s easy to see how this inequality in time is holding women back from equality.
As Prof. Lyndall Stazdins said in episode 6: “If you think about jobs as something where you trade your time for income […] then your time becomes a very valuable coin and what you can offer in terms of your time will determine a lot of how you achieve […] in many of the male dominated industries where the wages are high, so are the hours. They’re quite different to the female dominated industries. So what happens for a woman is that she needs to compete in terms of time. Not just merit.”
If you are planning on raising a child with a partner, take stock of everything you both do (paid and unpaid) and look at ways things can become financially more equal after you have children.
For example, if one caregiver is stopping work, see what options there are for the other person to pay money or salary sacrifice into their superannuation so they don’t lose out on interest during that time.
Get advice about superannuation and caregiving via the ATO: community.ato.gov.au
Women Talk Money has some great tips on how to have important conversations about money and parenthood.
Work out what assistance you are entitled to
If you’ve recently become single, there may be things that can help you financially that you are not aware of such as government help with school related expenses for your children, emergency relief or no-interest loan schemes.
Contact your child’s school about relief funds for supplies, school uniforms and excursion cost assistance.
Visit Council of Single Mothers and Their Children for financial advice specifically tailored to single parent households.
Contact Good Shepherd to learn more about No Interest Loan Schemes.
Lean on your networks
Reaching out to people who you know who are going through something similar or people who you can talk to can have all sorts of benefits. The power of community is endless so put yourself out there and ask for help from those around you. One good example of community support is meal trains which are calendars that coordinate meals for people when they’re going through a life change and need extra help.
Not sure how to set up a meal train? Visit The Kitchn to find out more.
There are these presumptions in our heads about what men and what women want when they become parents that are really outdated...We hold women to a higher standard when it comes to parenting. We still expect “good parenting” to be the job of women.
Jamila Rizvi, Editor, Future Women
Being a parent of a child where I’m the only parent, is pretty important work and very hard...but, I’m not paid for it and I’m not even really thanked for it.
Karen Pickering, feminist author and organiser