Prior to WCHM’s AGM, WCHM held a forum for Anti-poverty Week which focused on ‘What contributes to poverty for ACT women – the findings from recent WCHM research’.
CEO Marcia Williams highlighted that one of the common misconceptions about Canberra is that nobody here is disadvantaged, and that while Canberra has higher average socio-economic levels than the Australian average, there are still large numbers of people living in Canberra who are on very low incomes. And women are over-represented in these low-income households.
For women in the ACT, poverty is about being unable to afford the costs of living and struggling to meet the basic necessities of life (housing, adequate and healthy food, transport costs, and the payment of utility and medical expenses). And food insecurity – a recent statistic indicated that one in four women in Australia (27%) have experienced food insecurity in the last 12 months, compared to 18% of men.
From WCHM’s recent reports, ACT Women’s health matters (2018), This is what the real experience is like… (2019) and, I don’t have the spoons for that… (2018), the single largest barrier or difficulty that women told us when accessing health services was affordability. This included a range of different health services like simple health checks for themselves or their children, prescription refills, management of chronic conditions, and sexual and reproductive health issues (contraception and abortion).
In our reports, Hidden Disadvantage (2018) and Below the Surface (2019), our research also showed that women are disproportionately represented among those living in the ACT’s lowest income households and many women living in the ACT were living in either low or middle income households. These women had low personal incomes, and were reliant on parent’s or partner’s income for their middle income status, with the potential of quickly falling into poverty should their circumstance change (breakdown in marriage, DV, job loss, etc).
And WCHM’s new report, Creating Opportunity or Entrenching Disadvantage? 5 Years on – ACT Labour Market Data Update, which was released for Anti-Poverty Week jointly with ACTCOSS, found that as of August 2019, women in the ACT have a higher unemployment rate (3.4% male: 4.2% female), a lower participation rate (73.9% male: 67.1% female), lower full-time employment (72.9% for males and 61% for females) and underemployment for women is higher (7.1% male: 8.1% female). And that, women continue to be disadvantaged in the ACT labour market because the industries they are most likely to work in, and the occupations they are most likely to be employed to do, are underpaid.