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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2001  
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Contents >> Income and Expenditure >> Income Distribution: Women's incomes

Income Distribution: Women's incomes

In 1982, 33% of all income was received by women. By 1999-2000, this had increased to 38%. This growth was mainly the result of the increase in the proportion of women working.

The amount of income which individuals receive influences their personal independence, their command over economic resources and their ability to support children and other family members. It is only in the latter part of the 20th century that many women, particularly married women, have been able to enjoy an income of their own. Improved educational opportunities and changes in the social status of women, marriage and fertility patterns, employment and government pensions have all contributed to increases in women’s personal incomes. This article focusses on the increases over the last two decades. In 1982, women received 33% of all income received by men and women. By 1999-2000, this had increased to 38%.



PERSONAL INCOMES
The ABS collected data on current incomes in the 1982 Income and Housing Survey between September and December 1982, and in the 1999-2000 Survey of Income and Housing Costs between July 1999 and June 2000.

Included in this analysis are the personal incomes of women and men aged 15 years and over in Australia in 1982 and 1999-2000 who are:
  • income unit heads;
  • spouses of income unit heads; or
  • dependants of income unit heads, aged 15-20 years and in full-time post-school education.

Persons aged 21-24 years, living with their parents, and in full-time education have been treated as independent one-person income units.

Personal income is current gross weekly income, including income from employment, self-employment, rents and investments, child support, private transfers and government pensions and allowances. Negative incomes, which were only collected in 1999-2000, are set to zero.

Income quintiles are formed by ranking all persons in ascending order by level of income, and then dividing them into five groups, each containing 20% of people in the population.

UPPER QUINTILE POINTS

Quintile

Lowest
Second
Third
Fourth
Year
$
$
$
$

1982
54
101
217
323
1999-2000
154
255
482
750

Source: ABS 1982 Income and Housing Survey; ABS 1999-2000 Survey of Income and Housing Costs.


Income distribution
The distribution of personal incomes between women and men also changed over the 1980s and 1990s. One commonly used measure of the distribution of income between the sexes is the proportion of women and men in each income quintile. If there were no inequality in women’s and men’s incomes, then we would expect that each quintile group would contain equal proportions of each sex. In both 1982 and 1999-2000, women were more heavily concentrated in the lower quintiles of the personal income distribution, and men more concentrated in the higher quintiles. In 1982, 31% of all women were in the bottom quintile. In 1999-2000, the proportion of women in the lowest quintile had decreased to 26%. Consequently, more women moved into the higher income quintiles. In 1982, 8% of all women were in the highest income quintile, compared with 11% in 1999-2000.

For men, the proportion in the lowest quintile increased from 9% in 1982 to 15% in 1999-2000. These changes inevitably meant that the proportion of men in the highest income quintiles decreased over the period, from 32% in 1982 to 29% in 1999-2000.

One of the main reasons women’s share of total personal incomes increased, and more women had incomes near the top of the personal income distribution in 1999-2000 than in 1982, was that over this period, the proportion of women with earnings from employment increased. Women’s increased participation in the labour force during the 1980s and 1990s was underpinned by developments such as legislation recognising equality in employment, changes in family formation and child bearing patterns, improved availability of publicly subsidised child care services, and an increase in the availability of part-time and casual employment. At the same time, many industries traditionally employing men declined, and men’s overall labour force participation also declined.


PROPORTION OF MALES AND FEMALES IN PERSONAL INCOME QUINTILES, 1982
PROPORTION OF MALES AND FEMALES IN PERSONAL INCOME QUINTILES, 1999-2000
Source: ABS 1982 Income and Housing Survey.Source: ABS 1999-2000 Survey of Income and Housing Costs.


Changes in sources of income
Changes in women’s and men’s sources of income over the 1980s and 1990s largely reflect changes in their labour force participation. In 1982, 45% of women were either working or looking for work. By 2000 this had increased to 55%. For men, the pattern was one of reduced labour force participation, with rates falling from 77% to 73%.1 These labour force changes are reflected in changes in the main source of income received over this time period.

In both 1982 and 1999–2000, a small proportion of women and men had no income. These were mainly young people in post-secondary education who were dependent on their parents’ income, and married women who were dependent on their husband’s income. However, the proportion of women for whom earnings from employment was the main income source, increased from 43% in 1982 to 50% in 1999-2000, in line with the increase in the proportion of women in paid employment (from 43% to 54%) over this period. In contrast, the proportion of men whose main source of income was employment earnings fell, from 72% of all men in 1982, to 66% in 1999-2000. This was associated with a decrease in the proportion of men in employment, from 75% to 71%, over the same period.

The proportion of women whose principal source of income was from government pensions (which includes age pensions, unemployment payments, disability payments and family allowances) declined from 41% in 1982 to 35% in 1999-2000. Government pensions became the main source of income for an increasing proportion of men (up from 18% to 21%) over the same period. These changes in receipt of government pensions do not just reflect changes in employment patterns among women and men, but also changes in the targeting of government payments themselves. For example, a smaller proportion of mothers with dependent children received family allowances in 1999-2000 than in 1982. However, for some mothers in low income families, payments were likely to be more generous in 1999-2000 than in 1982.

MAIN SOURCE OF INCOME

1982
1999–2000


Males
Females
Total
Males
Females
Total

%
%
%
%
%
%
No income
4.0
6.3
5.2
4.0
6.7
5.4
Employment earnings(a)
71.5
42.6
56.9
65.8
49.5
57.5
Income from private sources
6.7
10.1
8.4
9.0
9.1
9.1
Income from government pensions
17.8
40.9
29.5
21.2
34.7
28.0
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total population
5,318.1
5,419.9
10,738.0
6,963.0
7,093.1
14,056.1

(a) Includes income from wages, salaries and self-employment earnings.

Source: ABS 1982 Income and Housing Survey; ABS 1999-2000 Survey of Income and Housing Costs.


Changes in income across age groups
Over the period 1982 to 1999-2000, women’s and men’s incomes increased 2.8 times and 2.3 times, respectively. This growth was not evenly distributed across all age groups and primarily reflected the changes in labour force participation, which varied considerably for women and men in different age groups.

The proportion of young women (aged 15-24 years) in employment increased from 65% to 72% between 1982 and 1999-2000, while the rate of employment among young men rose from 76% to 77%. The level of employment among young women was therefore approaching that of young men by the end of the 1990s. However, full-time employment declined, and part-time employment became increasingly more common for both young men and young women. This coincided with increased participation for both young men and young women in secondary and post-school education over this period (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Education: national summary tables).

While young women’s incomes became more equal with young men’s over the 1980s and 1990s, they became less equal with those of other women. Young women’s incomes more than doubled over the period (by a factor of 2.4), but among all women, incomes increased by a factor of 2.8. Between 1982 and 1999-2000, young men’s incomes increased by a factor of 1.9, while the personal incomes of all men increased by a factor of 2.3.

The proportion of women aged 25-44 years in employment increased over this period from 53% to 68%, and their average income increased to a greater extent than that of men in the same age group (by a factor of 2.9 compared with 2.2). These changes reflect the increased employment among mothers over this period. Their choice to enter employment may have been made easier not just by the increased availability of part-time employment, but also by the increased availability of formal childcare facilities (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Child care arrangements).

In contrast to older men, the proportion of older women of workforce age (45-59 years) in employment rose between 1982 and 1999-2000 (from 42% to 62%). Increasing numbers of women in this age group were employed in service industries, where new employment opportunities existed (see Australian Social Trends 1997, Changing industries, changing jobs). Changes in the structure of the labour market, particularly the decline in employment in the manufacturing and mining industries, affected older male workers most, and many left the labour force before reaching retirement age (see Australian Social Trends 1994, Early retirement among men). The proportion of men aged 45-59 years in employment declined over this period from 86% to 80%.

Women aged 45-59 years enjoyed a greater proportional increase in their average personal income between 1982 and 1999-2000 (up by a factor of 3.1) than women in the other age groups. But in 1999-2000 the average income of women in this group was still less than the average income of women aged 25-44 years.

Although the increase in employment among women aged 60 years and over was quite small (from 5% to 7%), they still experienced growth in personal income. This is related to two factors. First, age pensions, on which most older women depended in both years, generally grew in line with average earnings over this time.2 Second, superannuation became increasingly important for women of pension age over this period.3

INCOME AND EMPLOYMENT

Average weekly personal income
Proportion employed


1982
1999-2000
Change 1982 to 1999-2000
1982
1999-2000
Age group (years)
$
$
ratio
%
%

Males
    15-24
188
355
1.89
76.4
77.4
    25-44
323
723
2.24
90.5
86.3
    45-59
327
740
2.26
85.6
79.8
    60 and over
151
386
2.56
20.9
21.2
    Total
268
609
2.27
74.7
70.8
Females
    15-24
138
336
2.43
64.9
72.0
    25-44
146
427
2.92
53.2
68.4
    45-59
125
386
3.09
42.1
61.5
    60 and over
96
241
2.51
5.0
6.7
    Total
130
365
2.81
43.3
53.7

Source: ABS 1982 Income and Housing Survey, 1982; ABS 1999-2000 Survey of Income and Housing Costs.


Income sharing
The change in women’s average personal incomes over the 1980s and 1990s is an indicator of women’s increased financial independence over this time. However, most women live with partners or dependent children, or indeed, are living with parents themselves. It is usually assumed that within income units, members pool their incomes and share a common standard of living (see Australian Social Trends 1999, Income sharing and income distribution). Personal incomes then, may not always accurately reflect the standard of living or independence that an individual enjoys.

The increases in women’s incomes enabled them to contribute to a greater extent to their families’ incomes than would otherwise have occurred. For example, the personal incomes of partnered women with dependent children increased 3.0 times between 1982 and 1999-2000, and the incomes of partnered women without dependent children increased 2.8 times. Over the same period, the personal incomes of partnered men with children increased by a factor of 2.4, while those of partnered men without children increased by 2.3.

INCOME OF MALE AND FEMALE PARTNERS, 1982 AND 1999-2000

Males
Females


Partner in a couple,
no dependent children
Partner in a couple,
with dependent children
Partner in a couple,
no dependent children
Partner in a couple,
with dependent children

Average weekly personal income
$
$
$
$
    1982
244
334
124
112
    1999-2000
566
809
352
339

ratio
ratio
ratio
ratio
Increase 1982 to 1999-2000
2.32
2.42
2.84
3.03

Personal income as a proportion of couples’ income
%
%
%
%
    1982
66.3
74.9
33.7
25.1
    1999-2000
61.7
70.5
38.3
29.5

Source: ABS 1982 Income and Housing Survey, 1982; ABS 1999-2000 Survey of Income and Housing Costs.


As a result, the proportion of the total income of couples attributable to the female partners’ personal income increased over this period. In 1982, women’s personal income accounted for 25% on average of total income for couples with children and 34% for those without children. By 1999-2000, this had increased to 30% for couples with children and 38% for those without children.

Conversely, the personal income of partnered men, on average, declined as a proportion of couples’ income over the period, accounting for 75% of total income for couples with children and 66% for those without children in 1982, and 70% for couples with children and 62% for those without children in 1999-2000.


Couples and children

Couples are two persons who are in a registered or de facto marital relationship and who are resident in the same household.

Dependent children are persons aged under 15 years, and those aged 15-20 years, in full-time education, who live with their parents.


Endnotes
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1982, Labour Force, Australia, cat. no. 6203.0, ABS, Canberra, and Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000, Labour Force, Australia, Cat. no. 6203.0, ABS, Canberra.

2 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1982 and 1999, Average Weekly Earnings, 1982 and Average Weekly Earnings, 1999, cat. no. 6302.0, ABS, Canberra. See also, Department of Social Security (DSS) 1982, Annual Report 1981-82, DSS, Canberra, p. 17. See also, Department of Family and Community Services (DFaCS) 2000, Annual Report 1999-2000, DFaCS, Canberra, p. 176.

3 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1998, Retirement and retirement intentions, 1997, cat. no. 6238.0, ABS, Canberra.



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