Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sunday dollars+sense: Women seem more easily satisfied.

The next Westpac head, Gail Kelly, at present in charge of the St George Bank, is to get a reported salary approaching $24 million in the first two years.

My guess is that she'll be pretty satisfied.

I don't say that because of the salary (although she'll be the first woman in Australia to earn anything like that much).

I say that because she's a woman. Women are more easily satisfied than men when it comes to work, much more so. I know this because of HILDA...

The government-funded Household Income and Labour Dynamics Australia survey is just about the most useful source of information in the country - in many ways far more so than the census. Each year since 2001 around 19,000 Australians have been quizzed in detail about their incomes, jobs, family circumstances and feelings in a far more detailed way than the census could ever achieve.

Using the same approach as the makers of the Seven Up series of documentaries, the questioners keep coming back to the same group of people to check on how they are going. HILDA can track the break-up of relationships in real time, the way in which pay rises change behaviour and so on.

HILDA asks participants about six aspects of job satisfaction - overall satisfaction, satisfaction with pay, job security, the type of work, the hours and the flexibility.

The reality is that women are short-changed compared to men on just about every one of the measures. But you wouldn't know it from what they told HILDA.

On every measure other than flexibility, each year the women said they were more satisfied than did the men. When it came to flexibility, something likely to be of crucial importance to women given the greater role they play in caring for children, they were still equally satisfied.

The researchers, Temesgen Kifle and Parvinder Kler from the University of Queensland, found that the satisfaction gap narrowed somewhat over time, but critically they found that nearly all of the change was as result of the men becoming more satisfied, rather than the women becoming less so.

Their guess as to why women are so much more satisfied than men with jobs that are objectively less satisfactory? Expectations. Women expect less than men.

They've grown used to getting less. Apart from Gail Kelly.

Temesgen Kifle and Parvinder Kler, Job Satisfaction and Gender: Evidence from Australia, School of Economics, University of Queensland, HILDA Survey Research Conference 2007