The shocking stories and statistics on the levels of violence against women in Australia revealed over recent days has been a wake up call for concerted action at many levels. The Australian situation is consistent with broader international patterns as reported by the United Nations.
My research in recent years on women in low paid and precarious employment has an indirect but important link in this issue.
While the discussion on violence against women has emphasised that it crosses all socio-economic levels, I know from my research that lack of a good and reliable income from employment means women stay in bad domestic situations longer than they wish to.
For example one woman told me that she was only able to move out to a flat when she had a work contract for 8 months. A steady job and reliable income is often a prerequisite to obtain a lease on a property. In addition, with housing affordability being such a large issue in Australia, women in low paid, casual jobs are simply not able to afford rent what less to buy their own flat or house. As much of women’s employment is casual at around 25% of total employment it is not surprising many women will be constrained in undesirable domestic situations.
My doctoral research involved 38 midlife women in precarious jobs. Around half were single parents. Their situations told of the large risk and great economic cost of single parenthood. Poverty and hardship amongst single parents is well documented. At the core of these problems is lack of access to well paid secure employment. This risk factor of single parenthood reduces women’s capacity for economic independence.
Satisfactory levels of income and assets including own housing, means women do not need to rely on the resources of a male partner. They have greater choice over their own lives and the lives of their children. And this means they have a greater capacity for escaping a domestic violence situation. Not to discount the broader policing and social service issues, a well paying secure job is a big part of the equation too.