Social wellbeing of selected demographic groups

Social wellbeing outcomes for females relative to males

Overall, women had better health outcomes than males. Looking between 1950–1952 and 2012–2014, females had consistently higher life expectancy at birth compared with males, although the gap between male and female life expectancy has narrowed in recent times.

Compared with males, females had consistently lower rates of suicide between 1972 and 2012, and cigarette smoking and potentially hazardous drinking in 2013/2014. However, rates of hospitalisation for intentional self-harm or attempted suicide were much higher for females than for males (approximately double the rate in 2012). Females also had higher rates of psychological distress than males – a consistent trend between 2006/2007 and 2013/2014. They were less likely to be physically active, but had similar obesity levels to males in 2013/2014. Despite health differences, both sexes consistently rated their health at the same high levels between 2006/2007 and 2013/2014.

In the knowledge and skills area, there were higher proportions of females leaving secondary school with higher qualifications between 2009 and 2014, though the gap between females and males had declined since 2010. From 2007, there were higher proportions of females attaining Bachelor’s degrees and above compared with males.

In terms of paid work, females had higher unemployment rates compared with males, a pattern that has emerged since 2006. Between 1986 and 2014, they were also less likely than males to be employed – this is mainly because females spent more time caring and doing other unpaid work, and undertaking study and training. Compared with males, in 2012–2014 females were much less likely to be seriously injured at work, probably because they were less likely to be working in high-risk industries such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

On average over the survey periods, females were slightly more likely than males to be satisfied with their jobs and with their work-life balance. This may, in part, be a result of more females being in part-time work as those in part-time work were more satisfied with their work-life balance. Over the last 10 years, females had lower median hourly earnings compared with males, with the gap in earnings most pronounced in the 45–59 year age group in the June 2014 quarter. This gap, though, has generally been declining.

The proportions of females living in low-income households, and in households where more than 30 percent of disposable income was spent on housing costs were consistently higher than males between the 1980s and 2014. This is mainly because females were more likely to be living in sole-parent households.

Politically, women were under-represented in government, with around one–third representation in Parliament in 2014 and a similar proportion in local government in 2013. Culturally, Pacific females tended to be slightly more likely than Pacific males to speak the first language of their ethnic group in 2013 – the reverse was true for most European ethnic groups. Females had higher attendance and participation rates for arts and cultural activities compared with males for all survey periods between 2005 and 2014.

There was a mixed picture when looking at safety. Between 2010 and 2014, females had a lower rate of being killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes (less than half the rate of males), though males experienced a larger drop in deaths over time. In 2014, females, especially those aged 65 years and over, were much more likely to feel unsafe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark – even though females and males reported similar experiences of being victims of crime in 2014.

Females were more likely than males to say they were lonely and to report discrimination in 2014. Similarly in 2012, female high school students were less likely to report having enough time with at least one of their parents. Compared with males, females had slightly higher volunteering rates in 2012.