Sharing The Load.
How couples split home life and work life is a major factor in financial outcomes for women. Small changes in these arrangements could help New Zealanders’ wellbeing and deliver a $1.5 billion economic benefit.
At Westpac NZ we have focussed for several years on supporting better financial wellbeing for women by championing more women into leadership roles and closing the gender pay gap. Our Sharing The Load research took this a step further by looking at New Zealanders’ views on the way paid work and unpaid duties at home are shared between couples.
We asked Deloitte to survey Kiwis to understand the way paid and unpaid work is currently shared and to what extent people wanted a change. We also engaged them to look at the possible economic benefits of a future where men and women shared their responsibilities more evenly.
The case for change.
The report’s economic modelling shows there could be a $1.5 billion boost to the economy if men picked up a little more of the unpaid work at home, enabling more women to extend their hours in paid work. This would increase labour supply, help to address skill shortages and give the economy a long-term boost.
At an individual level, empowering women to take on more paid work would promote better economic outcomes for women and help to close the gender pay gap.
What can be done about it?
It is up to every Kiwi couple to independently work out how they want to share paid and unpaid work for their benefit of their own family. However, we think Government and businesses both have a role to play in making it easier for men and women to share their responsibilities more evenly.
Parental leave provisions can be complex and often result in a mother staying home after the birth of a child while their partner returns to work. Current policies also focus on leave entitlements in the first year of a child’s life, rather than offering the flexibility of taking leave in the subsequent years, when a child is developing.
Businesses can do more to embed flexibility. Flexible working arrangements, including being able to work from home, were perceived by survey respondents as a key incentive to take on paid work. They could also help couples share the load at home more evenly. Normalising flexible work will be important in encouraging its uptake, especially by men and those in senior roles.
As a result of the study, we are reviewing how Westpac NZ can better empower employees to share the load, and will announce changes later in 2021.