The Motherhood Penalty Costs the Average Australian Woman Over $876K Over Her Working Life - Play Nourish Thrive

The Motherhood Penalty Costs the Average Australian Woman Over $876K Over Her Working Life

What is the Motherhood Penality?

The motherhood penalty is a sociology concept, which describes how mothers in paid-work face disadvantages in pay, benefits, training, and perceived competence compared with working women without children. Specifically, women may suffer a per-child wage penalty, resulting in a pay gap between mothers and non-mothers, and an even larger pay gap between women and men – even men who are fathers.

Economic analysis shows that the motherhood penalty costs the average Australian woman $876K over her working life.  

Specifically, if an average Australian mother had the same (access to) workplace participation as a Swedish mother, she would:

  • earn an additional $696,000 over her working life; and
  • retire with an additional $180,000 in superannuation.

How can we bridge this gap?

For Australian mothers to catch up, economic modelling shows that there needs to be significant investment in the following (similar to what is available to Swedish mothers):

  1. Universal health and wellbeing support for parents and children;
  2. Equitable year-long paid parental leave;
  3. Free and high-quality Early Childhood Education;
  4. Flexible & supportive workplaces with access to universal paid carers’ leave for sick children.

Analysis shows that the cumulative impact of these investments would enhance childhood development, reduce the gender gap and increase GDP by 8.7 percent or $353 billion by 2050.

Has becoming a mother impacted your career?




Source: Equity Economics (2021), Back of the Pack – How Australia’s Parenting Policies are Failing Women and Our Economy, December 2021


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