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Global wealth equity study finds women attain just three-quarters of men’s wealth at retirement

Results of WTW Global Gender Wealth Equity report 2022

November 15, 2022

Switzerland has a substantial gap in gender wealth equity at retirement
Future of Work|Inclusion and Diversity|Retirement
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ZURICH / LAUSANNE / GENEVA, November 15, 2022 — A new global study from WTW highlights a startling difference between the wealth accumulation of men and women at the point of retirement, around the world. The WTW Global Gender Wealth Equity report, out today, shows that on average women are expected to reach retirement with just 74% of the wealth accumulated by men, with the difference across all countries included in the analysis ranging from 60% at worst to 90% at best.

Furthermore, the study highlights that the gender wealth gap at retirement increases with seniority. Women in senior expert and leadership roles were found to have less than two-thirds (62%) of the accumulated wealth that their male counterparts enjoyed at retirement. For mid-level professional and technical roles, the gap was still substantial at 69%, but it narrowed considerably to 89% for frontline operational roles.

Overall Europe had the least severe average gender wealth gap of all regions, but still with women expected to accumulate just over three-quarters (77%) of men’s wealth levels at retirement. Switzerland was one point below the European average at 76%, and had substantially wider gaps than seen in countries such as Spain, Austria, and Ireland.

David Pauls, Senior Director at WTW in Switzerland, said, “In Switzerland, the lack of affordable and accessible childcare and disproportionate share of unpaid care work that women assume add to the challenges of generating equitable retirement wealth. For many women, this is exacerbated by the combined effect of more limited career progression and lower salaries than their male counterparts. These need to change to realise more equitable wealth outcomes.”

Globally, the USA’s gender wealth gap was just above the global average at 75%, while Canada performed slightly better at 78%. Nigeria has the highest gender wealth gap in the study at 60%, closely followed by Argentina at 61%, and Mexico and Turkey at 63%.

Manjit Basi, Senior Director, Integrated & Global Solutions, WTW, said: “The results from our global analysis are startling. It shows that there is a gender wealth gap consistently across the 39 countries that we studied. The primary drivers contributing to gender-based wealth disparity include gender pay gaps, and delayed career trajectories. Additionally, gaps in financial literacy and family caregiving responsibilities outside the workplace influence women’s participation in paid employment and therefore their ability to build wealth.

“It’s imperative that activities around gender diversity, equity and inclusion broaden to look at economic wealth at the end of women’s working careers. Pay is a fundamental factor that underlies the gender wealth gap and while addressing the gender pay gap will partially close the wealth gap, it won’t eliminate it entirely.”

The study highlights that there has been an increasing focus on reversing the trend of gender discrimination through the recent environmental, social and governance (ESG) awakening. In addition, corporate efforts to further diversity, equity and inclusion have helped narrow the gender pay gap and underrepresentation of women in board and leadership roles. Yet, there remains more to be done.

“Gender inequity in wealth accumulation is under-researched and overlooked. The reality is that the wealth inequity issue and its causes and effects are multidimensional and should be studied and addressed as such,” said Basi. “By focusing on accumulated wealth at retirement, the disparity can be quantified, and actions can be taken through broader society, government and organisations to equalise wealth outcomes.

“While no single solution alone will solve the gender wealth gap, effective leaders need to employ a range of approaches to narrow it.”

The WTW Global Gender Wealth Equity report follows a collaboration between the World Economic Forum (WEF) and WTW earlier this year which released initial insights into the wealth gap in its Global Gender Gap Report.

About the survey

The WTW Wealth Equity Index (WEI), developed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, takes a holistic view across women’s working lifetimes and attempts to quantify the extent of the gender wealth gap for a selection of countries globally. It analyzed the quantitative and qualitative aspects of gender wealth equity, with deep dives into 39 individual countries.

Previous gender studies have focused on assessing gender disparities from the single lens of pay, career, pensions and longevity or workforce representation. The reality is that the issue of gender inequity and its causes and effects are multidimensional. By focusing on accumulated wealth, we consider the effects of many intermingled inequities, including pay, career progression, financial literacy and events that occur during a working lifetime. And we can measure through one metric — accumulated wealth at retirement.

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