Consumers across Europe are battering the impact of high inflation and rapidly increasing interest rates. And the cost-of-living crunch is adding extra pressure on women. Intrum’s latest European Consumer Payment Report, a survey of 24,000 consumers across Europe, shows that women report a lower financial wellbeing than men across the board, with a significantly growing gender gap within this field compared to the 2021 survey. The research also shows that female respondents are less satisfied than men with their level of financial education and were less likely to correctly answer questions about how the inflation impacts consumers’ day-to-day finances.
With smaller financial margins, women are more sensitive to cost hikes
Intrum’s data shows that women have less of financial buffers than men. Male respondents save more money than women on a monthly basis and women are overrepresented in the group saying they don’t save any money at all. At the same time, close to one third of women (32 per cent, compared to 24 per cent of men) have less than one month’s salary of savings available to cover an unforeseen event.
The survey points to a significant year on year growth among both men and women expressing that rising bills have an increasingly negative impact on their wellbeing. However, this trend is visibly stronger among women, with 62 per cent saying this in 2022, up from 47,6 per cent in 2021 (54 per cent in 2022 respectively 41,5 per cent in 2021 for male respondents).
“Financial aspects remain a central part of gender inequalities in Europe. Our research shows that women are more concerned than men about how the surging cost of living will impact their everyday finances. And unfortunately there are reasons for this greater bill anxiety. With clearly smaller financial margins and buffers on average, women are feeling a relatively stronger pressure of the sharply rising costs of living”, says Anna Zabrodzka-Averianov, Senior Economist at Intrum.
Among consumers reporting to have failed to pay one or several bills on time during the recent year, just over half of female respondents say they did so because they did not have enough money (four in 10 for male respondents). This is up from 44 per cent for women, respectively 35 per cent for men in 2021.
Women are less likely than men to ask for a pay raise
Following the surging costs of living, many consumers say they will change how they spend money. 67 per cent of women, compared to 60 per cent of men, say they already have or are planning to make changes to manage the impact of inflation and rising interest rates.
Looking at more long term financial equality, almost two thirds of the female respondents (66 per cent) worry they won’t be able to afford a comfortable retirement. 57 per cent of male respondents recognise themselves in the same situation.
But despite relatively higher concerns about their financial future, women are less likely to ask for a higher than normal pay raise. Twenty-six per cent of women, respectively 35 per cent of men are planning to do so the coming year.
Financial education – knowledge or confidence?
Intrum’s European Consumer Payment Report shows that men overall are more confident about their financial literacy. While both genders equally say they have the know-how to manage the basics of personal finances (excluding stock market investments and pension planning), 31 per cent of men respectively 22 per cent of women believe they can manage complex financial matters.
When tested on their knowledge of basic financial concepts, men were more likely to correctly answer a question about the impact of inflation. Fifty-one per cent of men got the question right, compared to 40 per cent of women. Similar differences were noted when respondents were asked about the inflation’s impact on savings in a bank account, with 74 per cent of men versus 64 per cent of women answering the question correctly. This suggests men could be better equipped to navigate in the current economic environment.
But the gaps in these questions of knowledge also corresponds to a larger number of women selecting ‘don’t know’ from the list of response options. Research shows that women tend to disproportionately respond ‘do not know’ to questions measuring financial aptitude, but often choose the right answer when this option is unavailable.1
“Our data indicates that the road to financial equality remains long. Getting financial education right for all Europeans, independently of their gender, is definitely one very important aspect which will help close the financial gender gap once and for all,” says Anna Zabrodzka-Averianov.
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