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When women earn more than their male partners, domestic violence risk goes up 35 per cent

ANU economics professor Robert Breunig says the findings of his study on domestic violence and incomes was striking and unexpected.

ANU economics professor Robert Breunig says the findings of his study on domestic violence and incomes was striking and unexpected.

There was no increase in violence or emotional abuse against men in the study as the share of household income between genders changed.

On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced major changes to the federal ministry, creating new positions including a minister for women’s safety and a minister for women’s economic security.

Research last week from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found the gender pay gap may take 26 years to fully close with some industries on track to never reach parity.

Professor Breunig said as their research unfolded, the findings became as striking as they were unexpected.

He said he and Dr Zhang were able to discount higher reporting rates as a reason for the increase in cases of violence once a woman’s income surpassed that of their male partner.

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He and Dr Zhang said the research suggested governments would need to carefully consider the type of programs they designed to deal with partner abuse against women.

“Simply increasing women’s economic power may not be effective in reducing violence against women and government may need to try and influence cultural change,” they said.

“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.”

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Chair of Wesnet and chief executive of the Annie North Women’s Refuge in Victoria, Julie Oberin, said the research was groundbreaking as it highlighted the depth of misogyny across Australia.

“Australia is particularly misogynist and has very clear toxic masculinity and that’s an issue this research highlights,” she said.

“The role of the male breadwinner is so central to masculinity in this country that when it is challenged you end up in this situation.”

Ms Oberin said the Australian research was in line with work out of Sweden where, despite major advances in gender economic equality, there were still deep divisions between men and women around violence.

“Domestic violence is like racism. You can make it legal for black people to travel on the same bus as white people, you can make it legal for black children to go to school with white children, but that doesn’t get rid of racism,” she said.

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