Tackle economic inequity to improve women’s health: Victorian report shows

Women's health

Victorian women lag behind men on key health and wellbeing indicators, a new report has found. While caring responsibilities limit their opportunities for full time employment.

The Victorian Women’s Health and Wellbeing Snapshot, led by Monash University, found Victorian women’s health was worse in every dimension relative to men.

Around two thirds of women reported poor physical health, physical functioning, low levels of vitality, and poor mental health/mental functioning. Caring responsibilities also significantly and disproportionately limited women’s opportunities for full time employment.

Co-authors Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation (MCHRI) Director Professor Helena Teede, health economist Professor Emily Callander, and big data and biostatistician lead, Associate Professor Joanne Enticott have called for an urgent conversation on income inequity that impacts women’s health and wellbeing.

“The opportunity for meaningful employment and a decent level of income allows individuals to contribute to society and to optimise health and wellbeing,” Professor Teede said.

Low income and under employment were two primary determinants of poor health, and Victorian women lagged behind men in both, Professor Callander said.

“This report shows that more Victorian women are employed part time, or are underemployed than men. It also shows the significant annual income and superannuation gap between men and women in Victoria, which is directly related to access to healthcare and to adverse health outcomes.”

The research is based on the representative data from the annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.
The Victorian report found that overall, the percentage of Victorian women in full time employment was 18.6 percentage points lower than men, with only 27.4 per cent working full time. Far more women than men were working part-time and were not in the labour force at all.

There was also a $23,008 annual income gap between men and women in Victoria and a $53,062 superannuation gap from the recent national survey data in 2020.

The Victorian report follows the first Australian Women’s Health and Wellbeing Scorecard: Towards equity for women. The national report found that at current rates it will take 70 years to reach full time employment equality with men, and more than 200 years to reach income equity.

Some of the biggest gender health gaps were evident in mental health – with over eight percentage points more women reporting mental health issues.

“In no other section of health would we tolerate such a big gender difference.  Economic outcomes are clearly linked with wellbeing and mental health, so by addressing economic differences we can start to start to close the mental health gender gap,” Associate Professor Joanne Enticott said.

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