International Women’s day – low pay fuelling retirement anxiety for early childhood

On International Women’s Day early childhood educators are raising awareness of the flow on effects of a feminised workforce being denied professional pay.

The government is failing Australia’s educators by continually failing to fund professional pay. The Morrison government are causing financial disadvantage and financial insecurity for this feminised workforce – both throughout decades of service and in retirement. Educators who have dedicated their lives to educating the next generation of Australians are being forced to delay retirement due to low superannuation balances.

This is a very real and raw issue for the 110,000 educators working in the long day care sector, 96% of these workers are female.

Qualified educators are some of the lowest paid professionals in Australia, paid as little as $22 per hour – almost half the national average wage. Historical inequality has led to low rates of pay for the sector – and the resulting gender pay gap in retirement is stark.

Educators tell their union that they just can’t afford to retire after decades of dedicating their careers to educating Australia’s youngest minds and many are needing to work past retirement age.

Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary of United Voice, the early childhood union says, “On International Women’s Day 2019, its outrageous Australia’s qualified educators are earning $22 an hour. It’s outrageous that this government is failing to recognise and fund the professional work of this workforce.

“These appalling rates of pay don’t just affect educators during their working life, but in retirement too. We are facing a situation where many educators are being forced to work past retirement age. It’s actually frightening that women workers in Australia are in this situation, after providing decades of professional education.

“Educators are angry. They are a professional, skilled workforce. They are being denied by government inaction a liveable, professional wage that supports them throughout their working life and also to be able to save for retirement. Feminised workforces deserve better. Educators are rallying ahead of the federal election to make professional pay an election issue and will target politicians who do not support professional pay for early childhood educators. This government is on notice.

“Australians should be questioning how the wage setting system has left educators’ wages floundering, and professional female workers facing poverty in retirement, despite their work requiring qualifications.”

Debbie Christie, an early childhood educator from Adelaide who has worked in the sector for 12 years and is 60-years-old says, “Many educators are paid as little as $22 an hour for what we do. I’m 60 now and that’s nowhere near enough when you’re on your own and looking to support your own future. My super won’t be enough to support me when I retire. I’ve spent the last two years studying to advance my career, doing my Diploma whilst working four days a week and looking after my grandchildren. It’s been hard. My pay went up $3 an hour, which is the biggest increase I’ve seen in 11 years. But an extra few dollars is not enough to see me through retirement.”

Ethna Bulloch, an early childhood educator who has worked in the sector in Sydney for a decade and is 55-years-old says, “It’s a shame that this Scott Morrison and his government is not listening to the ECEC sector. We are qualified professional educators in a low paid profession labelled as ‘babysitters’. The knock-on effect is that our super isn’t enough to sustain us in retirement and many workers whom are approaching retirement are having to work longer. I’m a 55-year-old lady who lives in Blacktown, Sydney and I often say to my colleagues that I will still be working in ECEC with a zimmer frame due to the poor pay rate. I’ve been in the sector for 10 years and change is needed for all educators. Things must change.”

/Public Release.