CoreLogic research has revealed a disparity in property ownership rates between the sexes. The research suggests that women are less likely than men to own property, which can impact their overall financial wellbeing and their ability to afford a comfortable retirement. So what factors cause this gender property gap, and how can women prepare for a better financial future?
Studies repeatedly show that achieving financial wellbeing is one of the keys to female empowerment. As well as improving the lives of individual women, it also has wide-reaching benefits for society and the economy. Yet even in relatively wealthy countries like Australia and New Zealand, women still haven’t reached financial equality with men.
Property ownership is a major contributor to household wealth, and the residential housing market is valued at $7.9 trillion in Australia and more than $1.3 trillion in New Zealand. CoreLogic’s recent whitepaper, Women and Property: State of Play, examines how women and men in both countries engage with the property market. The research shows how property ownership rates are contributing to a broader wealth gap, which can have significant implications for women well into retirement.
Breaking down the gender property ownership gap
Shared property ownership between a man and a woman is the most common ownership structure in both Australia and New Zealand. However, when comparing either solo or joint property ownership rates, women tend to lag behind men across the board.
Source: CoreLogic, Women and Property: State of Play, March 2021.
More than just bricks and mortar
Australians and New Zealanders who don’t own property are missing out on a valuable source of financial security. According to CoreLogic’s research, property accounts for more than half of the average Australian household’s wealth. Meanwhile, the median net worth of homeowners in New Zealand is around 14 times that of non-homeowners.2
Median net worth of NZ households
Property ownership can also make a significant difference to the quality of a person’s retirement. Those who own their home outright when they retire will typically have substantially more income at their disposal to fund a comfortable lifestyle. Plus, they’ll avoid the stress of having to keep up with rent or mortgage payments.
But achieving this outcome can be an even greater challenge for women, who generally retire with less superannuation than men. This is due to a combination of factors, including the gender pay gap and the fact that women are more likely to take career breaks or work part-time while raising children or caring for elderly relatives.
What’s more, women tend to live longer than men, so it’s vital that their superannuation will last the distance. But if they don’t own property, their retirement savings could end up being eroded by ongoing housing costs, putting them at greater risk of falling into poverty.
What’s holding women back?
CoreLogic’s research suggests that the gender pay gap may be the single greatest barrier to property ownership.
When women are paid less than their male counterparts, it becomes more difficult to save for a house deposit. In fact, based on a typical Australian’s average weekly full-time earnings, it could take a woman 10 months longer to save a 20% deposit than a man. And for single women on lower incomes, it can be even harder to gain a foothold in the property market.
How big is the gender pay gap?
There are many drivers behind the gender pay gap. Industries that are traditionally dominated by women tend to attract lower rates of pay, such as childcare, administration and cleaning. Women are also more likely to be engaged in part-time employment or to take time out of the workforce for unpaid care roles. For many women, the end result is a lower earning potential over the course of their working lives.
Overcoming the barriers
The reality is that it may take decades to resolve the larger societal issues that form obstacles to female property ownership, like the gender pay gap and the undervaluing of domestic labour. But in the short term, women can benefit enormously from education and coaching around the factors that contribute to financial security. And for women on single and low incomes, there’s an even greater need for guidance and support around saving and investing.
Financial institutions may be able to assist – and the first step could be to truly understand the specific challenges their female customers face. There are also opportunities to provide information and advice that will help people of different demographics, backgrounds and circumstances to enter the property market.
We know that education is the key to boosting overall financial literacy. Naturally, people who are encouraged to form positive financial habits early in life, like budgeting and saving, will have greater confidence when it comes to following more long-term savings strategies tailored to their specific situation and needs.
That’s why we all need to do our part in prioritising financial literacy and helping girls engage with their finances from a young age. This will give them the tools they need to make wise financial decisions throughout their lives, so they can improve their financial wellbeing and set themselves up for a comfortable retirement.
Find out more
You can learn more about the relationship between property ownership and the gender wealth gap by visiting CoreLogic’s Women and Property webpage and downloading our whitepaper, Women and Property: State of Play.
The above comments are subject to various assumptions and limitations as set out in the whitepaper.
- 1. UN Women, Facts and figures: Economic empowerment, July 2018.
- 2. CoreLogic, Women and Property: State of Play, March 2021.
- 3. ABS, Life tables 2017–2019.
- 4. CoreLogic, Women and property: State of play, March 2021.
- 5. Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Australia's gender pay gap statistics, February 2021.
- 6. NZ Ministry for Women, Gender pay gap is 9.5 percent, August 2020.