Economic Independence: It’s complicated

Economic Independence: It’s complicated

By Nina Herriman, Chief Storyteller

Wicked. Choice. Sick. I don’t know what word young’uns these days are using to describe things that are cool. (I thought about asking my nieces and nephews but they’d probably think it’d be fun to prank Aunty Nina with nonsense words.)

NCW’s 2015 white paper, Enabling Women’s Potential, and the subsequent funding application for the Gender Dashboard talk about gender inequality as a “wicked” problem. This is a whole different meaning of “wicked”. It means that its really really hard to solve. Because if it was easy, we would have done it already.

The Gender Dashboard will cover Four Key Areas of Inequality.  For now, we’re focusing on Economic Independence, but over the life of the project we’ll also be looking at Safety and Health, Education, and Influence and Decision-making.  We’ve also focused on these areas in our recent Gender Attitudes Survey infographics.

As I’ve talked to people about economic independence, what it means and about some of our early data stories, I’ve had the same response.  It’s complex. You really need an essay to talk about this. And they’re right.  A real in-depth understanding of the issues and solutions requires essays, and books, and more essays and books.  Years of study and research.  But for most of us, that’s all tl;dr (too long; didn’t read).

So the Gender Dashboard presents the tl;dr stories in a simple and easy-to-understand way.  They won’t have all the nuance and detail that you might find in some of those fantastic essays and books out there.

Some things, like the impact of colonisation and patriarchy, need the full consideration of an essay or a book.  Understanding of these factors needs to sit behind our data stories and inform the way that we talk about inequity, but not everything can be told in simple data stories.

We do need a clear definition of economic independence and what the key factors are that contribute to people’s ability to achieve it. So we talked to a lot of people about what economic independence what it meant for them, their whānau, communities and NZ society in general.  This is what we came up with.  It’s a working definition – and I think it always will be.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Economic independence: definition and what is important in achieving equality

Economic independence is:

  • being able to make real choices about work and money, and how we live
  • free from discrimination and where outcomes are not determined by our gender, ethnicity, disability or other aspects of our lives
  • so that we have enough to take care of ourselves, our household and our whānau; have a good quality of life; and can participate in our communities including hapu and iwi
  • throughout our adult lives
  • without being forced to rely on someone else.

Wider societal and structural factors impact our ability to be economically independent over our lifetime

  • Accessibility of public infrastructure and systems (e.g. health, education, transport)
  • Societal norms, expectations and values
  • How society places value on different occupations including parenting, paid and unpaid work and activities
  • How benefit entitlements are structured
  • Structure of the tax system
  • Discrimination and exploitation of all kinds
  • Pay and conditions

Our communities, networks and values play a part in our economic independence

  • Who we know, and knowing how to navigate systems
  • Our responsibilities to the communities that we are part of
  • Opportunities to gain income from sources other than wages and salaries
  • How we use the resources we have
  • Our values, ambitions, hopes and dreams

It often comes down to money

  • How much we have
  • How much we can earn
  • Whose well-being we are responsible for
  • What bills we have to pay
  • What that looks like over our lifetime

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