The Annual Report for 2016 of the Women’s Housing Company demonstrates solutions to the terrible and growing situation of older women facing homelessness. These solutions however continue to elude policy makers, the media and business, whose failures to recognise the size of the problem and its costs to the public purse inflict great damage on the human rights of poorer older women.
The disadvantage experienced by older women vulnerable to homelessness is not just a function of age. It is an accumulation of a lifetime of gender discrimination. They have spent most of their lives in the workforce, in lower paid jobs because they are women. Years out of the workforce to raise children put big gaps in their superannuation savings, and most of them did not have paid parental leave. Later they had to reduce working hours, or give up their jobs completely, to care for frail parents, again without any fair compensation or superannuation.
When they finally retire, or are forced out of paid work by age discrimination or health issues, they have no home, no savings and usually just the age pension to live on.
They cannot afford private rents and they are usually not eligible for public housing. There are no public policies targeted to support these women.
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