Are Kiwi women less self-reliant than men?

18 October 2016

New Zealand women between the ages of 18 and 39 are almost three times more likely than men to rely on their partner - who is typically male - in a financial crisis such as sudden loss of income.

An AMP survey1 of more than 600 people between the ages of 18 - 39 found that 37 per cent of women in that age group expected to be able to rely on their partner to help them out if they find themselves unable to earn an income.

Most men don’t expect their female partners to support them

Just 13 per cent of males expected their partners to be able to return the favour.

It’s a situation that TV3 morning news and talk show host Paul Henry2 described earlier this year as “extraordinarily sexist behaviour from women between the ages of 18 and 39, and probably extraordinarily unwise because there is no reason to suggest that males will be able to help them out”.

AMP researchers were surprised by the finding because they expected women in this age group to have a greater sense of equality about taking care of their own financial affairs.

Reasons why women may be relying financially on their male partners

There could be a number of reasons for why women feel this way. Gender inequality when it comes to pay parity means that the woman in the relationship may earn less than her male partner, and the couple may have decided that it’s best to insure the person earning the higher salary - affordability may play a part in this3.

However, women underestimate their economic value in a whole raft of other areas. For example, a mother who earns less than her partner, but ends up getting sick, leaves a big hole in the family because she is the one who runs the household and looks after the children.

A hypothetical example put together in an article called 'Your economic value - what's mum worth?' put the financial contribution of a stay-at-home mum at $61,061.00 per year - and that's on the minimum wage using conservative estimates.

Another factor is that women in this demographic are often in and out of the workforce, possibly attending to the demands of motherhood, and just don’t think income protection is worth it or that they qualify.

Biggest fear is being unable to provide for family

In other findings:

  • 30-39 year old respondents are more likely to rely on their partner (32%) in comparison to 18-24 year olds (15%)
  • In terms of emotional impact, two in five respondents indicated they would find it a bit stressful to rely on their partner but they would be OK (39%)
  • The biggest fear when it comes to loss of income for a third of respondents was not being able to provide for their family (34%). This was followed by those who did not like the idea of relying on someone else (28%)

Think carefully about your financial needs before committing

In light of the research, young women and men in the 18 - 39 age group may want to think more about 'what could go wrong (such as a serious illness)?' 'What are both the financial and practical implications of that personally and for the family?' and 'What steps can we take to mitigate that risk?'

Important information

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1606 participants completed the AMP Essentials survey. Margin of error+/-4% at the 95% confidence of interval (considered an acceptable margin of error).
3Summary Report: The People Insurance Gap - Exploring Underinsurance in New Zealand (Financial Services Council)

The content provided is intended to be used as information only and does not constitute financial advice.