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Christian Service News

Issue 34 (January 2002)

Topic : Opinion Feedback

More Financial Support for Middle-Aged and Old Women: Insights from Census 2001

Data from Census 2001 is released. Undoubtedly the most eye-catching phenomenon is the deteriorating situation of wealth inequality as reflected from the Gini Coefficient. But among all other data that has been released up until now, we find one neglected issue worth noticing.

From the data on Labour Participation Rate by age and gender, it seems necessary for the government to study the financial needs of separated or divorced middle-aged women and of the unmarried old women.

For all ages, the average labour participation rate for women is 51.6%. However, the labour participation rate for separated or divorced women aged 35 to 49 ranges from 70.7% to 75.0%. This range is much higher than that of their same age counterparts who are married, which ranges from 55.3% to 59.8%. An implication from this marked difference is the "forced" financial independence of separated or divorced middle-aged women. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate of this group is also very high. It seems to be a significant area for the government to consider studying their financial needs.

Another socially ignored finding from the Census 2001 concerns the unmarried old women . Data shows that the labour participation rate for unmarried women aged 65 to 74 ranges as high as 10.6% to 18.3%. The range is much higher than that of their married counterparts' which ranges from only 2.5% to 5.0%. It is also higher than the labour participation rate for those who are widowed, separated or divorced (ranges from 1.8% to 8.8%). It is obvious that unmarried old women most likely have to depend on themselves financially; perhaps the salary from their job is the only major income to live on. And worse even is that their jobs are likely to be unskilled, low-paid, part-time and manual labour works, which are most vulnerable in economic downturns.

If the above interpretations are correct, these two groups of women are in fact very likely to be marginalized in the labour market and be most vulnerable. Therefore, we suggest for the government to study on this phenomenon to consider if there be a need to create ways and means to provide additional financial support to them.