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.