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High earning Aussie women at 35% higher risk of domestic violence

Young woman is sitting hunched at a table at home, the focus is on a man's fist in the foregound of the image
Image: Getty. (lolostock via Getty Images)

Australian women who earn more than their partners are at a 35 per cent greater risk of domestic violence, according to major new research.

Additionally, when women make the majority of their household’s income, they are at a 20 per cent greater risk of emotional abuse, the research by Tax and Transfer Policy Institute director Robert Breunig and institute fellow Yinjunjie Zhang found.

The researchers studied Australian Bureau of Statistics data spanning more than a decade, and found that the same trends occurred across couples regardless of income, age or country of birth.

There was no change in instances of domestic violence or emotional abuse against men as incomes changed.


According to the World Health Organisation’s 2017 global estimates report, 30 per cent of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence at the hands ot their partner.

And in Australia, one-in-three women who have been murdered, have been the victims of their current or former partner.

“[The] violation of the male breadwinning gender norm has a large and statistically significant impact on the incidence of domestic violence and emotional abuse,” Breunig and Zhang wrote.

“As women’s share of household income increases, but remains below one-half, there is no change in the experience of physical and emotional abuse.

“Only when the gender norm is violated do we see an increase in the incidence of physical violence and emotional abuse.”

The research comes as Australia grapples with growing frustration at sexism and violence against women in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a new Minister for Women’s Safety, Anne Ruston, and Minister for Economic Security, Jane Hume, on Monday amid an avalanche of scandals within Parliament House and the Liberal Party.

Hume has been called upon to tackle pay inequity, the superannuation gap, the parental leave system and the division of unpaid labour and childcare as a priority.

Researchers Breunig and Zhang noted that simply increasing women’s economic power may not be effective at reducing violence without a major cultural overhaul running parallel.

“Many economists are uncomfortable with the idea of government trying to alter preferences. However, thinking about how to design child care policy, parental leave policy and family payments policy to allow gender norms to evolve alongside greater gender equality in work and income seems like a clear policy direction.

“Policies to assist women in leaving abusive relationships may also help.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

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