Department of Family and Community Services

Chapter Summary

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Chapter One: A profile of NSW women

Women in NSW are likely to live in cities, come from diverse cultural backgrounds and speak many languages.

Aboriginal women make up 2.5 percent of the female population of NSW, which in 2011 was 3.5 million women or 51 percent of the state’s population. In 2011, nearly two-thirds of NSW women lived in Greater Sydney, with 24 percent living in regional, rural and remote NSW.

The median age of women in NSW in 2011 (38 years) is nearly two years older than that of men. Women are more likely to live longer than men; however, the gap is closing.

Over a quarter of NSW women were born overseas, and over one in four spoke a language other than English at home.

The majority of NSW women (67 percent) are of the Christian faith. However, minority religious groups are growing in size as the proportion of women identifying as Christians shrinks.

Over a third of women 65 years and over live alone. Women between the ages of 80 and 84 years are more than twice as likely as men to be living alone.

Chapter Two: Health and wellbeing

NSW women have mixed outcomes across the range of health and wellbeing indicators.

The three main trouble spots are psychological distress, including self-harm among women, fall-related hospitalisations and the sexually transmitted disease of Chlamydia. In addition, more women suffer from arthritis, long and short-sightedness and osteoporosis than men, after taking their different age structure into account.

A serious preventative health issue is women’s lower rate of physical activity compared to men and compared to wellbeing guidelines. The most improvement in recent years has occurred among women from higher socio-economic groups.

However, NSW women are not likely to smoke (only 13 percent identify as smokers), and half as many women as men drink at risky levels. The overall trend to reduced smoking is less strongly evident among low socio-economic women.

The health of women is dependent on many factors, not only those normally considered within the usual medical model. As our first Report observed, consideration also needs to be given to social, economic and educational factors that affect health, many of which are covered in other parts of the Report.

Chapter Three: Education and learning

This year for the first time in NSW, we report that more boys than girls completed Year 12 in 2011. For the period 2002-10, NSW girls’ school outcomes were improving at a faster rate than boys’. In post-school education girls’ attainment continues to outstrip boys’ at most levels, although across the whole working-age population, women remain slightly less qualified than men.

Women and girls remain under-represented in subjects that lead to the highest earning professions. The gender gap in girls’ and boys’ HSC completions in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) increased this year, with 31 percent of girls completions in these subjects compared to 45 percent of boys’. In higher education there was a 10 percentage point gender gap on STEM subject choice.

The importance of vocational education and training (VET) opportunities for early school leavers, and for certain groups of women is noted this year. Aboriginal women participated in VET at more than double their rate in the population in 2011.

Education is important for everyone, but it is especially important for girls and women. Women’s educational achievements act as springboards, allowing them to pursue opportunities previously out of their reach.

Chapter Four: Work and financial security

In 2013, women made up 46 percent of employed people in NSW. However, two-fifths work part-time and 28 percent are engaged as casuals. Access to paid work is central to women’s financial and social independence and crucial for the NSW economy.

Despite the overall improvement in women’s workforce status, in many areas gender gaps are closing only gradually. For instance, in 1978 the percentage of full-time employment held by women was 28 percent; today it is still only 36 percent. Under-employment (wanting more hours of work) remains a major issue for women, and in 2012 affected nearly 9 percent of women in the labour force compared to just over 5 percent of men. Trades and technical jobs are also slow to change, with a discussion this year of ‘the missing 48 percent’ – women in the highly male-dominated trades such as automotive and construction where they make up less than 2 percent of workers.

More positively, women part-time workers are now more likely to be employed in ongoing, as opposed to casual, jobs. Half of part-time workers were casual in 2011 compared to nearly two-thirds in 1992. Indeed, 42 percent of mothers with children under 12 report using part-time work to help them care for children. It is rarely used by fathers who instead are more likely to use flexible working hours. In other new data in this year’s Report, there appears to have been swift uptake of Parental Leave Payments by new mothers in NSW in 2011.

Chapter Five: Leadership

Since last year’s Report, local government elections have been held in NSW. While a record number of women stood as candidates (34 percent), the number elected (28 percent) was the same as in 1999.

Meanwhile, women’s representation in the NSW Legislative Assembly continues to decrease and currently stands at 20 percent.

In Australia’s top ASX 500 companies headquartered in NSW, women’s representation on boards and in the senior executive ranks is very low at 12 percent and 10 percent respectively.

Women’s representation on community boards, and among entrepreneurs, are new indicators this year. Around 51 percent of board members in not-for-profit organisations are women. And despite popular perceptions of women’s dominance in small business, women make up around one third of business owners, in both incorporated (29 percent) and unincorporated businesses (34 percent).

Leadership gender equality has increased in recent decades; however, there are areas where progress has been slow, very recent or has stalled altogether.

Chapter Six: Safety and justice

Women are far less safe in NSW’s families and communities and workplaces than men.

Women are more than twice as likely as men to experience domestic violence and five times more likely than men to be sexually assaulted and have the assault perpetrated by their partner.

In the 12 months to September 2012, some 20,700 women were the victims of a recorded domestic violence-related assault in NSW. Surveys suggest the actual incidence is far greater. Women make up nearly 70 percent of people protected by Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders.

Aboriginal women’s rate of domestic violence remains around seven times that of other women, although their rate has declined considerably during the last decade.

New data on offenders and prisoners show women as currently making up 21 percent of NSW offenders and 7 percent of the NSW prison population. The share of women offenders in assault cases has increased since 2005, with the rate increasing most among women aged 50 and over.

Illicit drug offences are the most common cause of women’s imprisonment.