International Women’s Day Highlights Gender Equity Gap
Tuesday, 8th March 2011 at 12:28 pm
100 years after women around the world first took to the streets to draw attention to gender equity issues, Australian women are still fighting to be paid the same as their male colleagues according to supporters of International Women’s Day.
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Former President of Chile and Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet says 100 years ago the first International Women’s Day was held to draw attention to the unacceptable and often dangerous working conditions that so many women faced worldwide.
Bachelet says the first IWD brought over one million women out onto the streets, demanding not just better conditions at work but also the right to vote, to hold office and to be equal partners with men.
She says those pioneering women would look at today’s world with a mixture of pride and disappointment, for despite the progress over the last century the hopes of equality expressed on that first International Women's Day are a long way from being realised.
Bachelet says across the world, women continue to earn less than men for the same work. She says almost two-thirds of illiterate adults are women, girls are less likely to be in school than boys, and in many countries women have unequal access to land and inheritance rights. She says there are still only 28 women heads of state or government in the world.
Bachelet says it is not just women who pay the price for this discrimination – everyone suffers for failing to make the most of half the world’s talent.
Australian Women Still Fighting for Equal Pay
In Australia, the 100th IWD finds women continuing to battle for equal pay for equal work.
The Australian Services Union says that women in Australia still earn 18% less than men on average.
ASU Branch Secretary Sally McManus says women have been fighting for equal pay for 100 years – that’s 100 years too long.
The ASU, along with four other unions, currently has an equal pay test case before Fair Work Australia which aims to raise wages for people working in the female dominated social and community services sector.
McManus says if they are successful, and Fair Work Australia recommends a pay increase, it will be a win for community workers, for those in other female dominated sectors and, importantly, will bring Australia a step closer to achieving equal pay.
She says if Fair Work Australia recommends wage increases for community workers these increases will only be met through increases in funding from both State and Federal governments and through employers passing on these increases to employees.
She says if women don’t see this support after 100 years, the Government’s commitment to achieving equal pay will be nothing but hollow words.
The ASU is organising an International Women’s Day march to be held in Sydney on Saturday, 12 March, meeting at Sydney Town Hall at midday.
Women Urge Increase in Superannuation Rate
An open letter sent to all members of Federal Parliament is calling for a lift in the compulsory superannuation rate from 9% to 12%.
The letter, signed by 43 Australian women – including leading businesswomen, thought leaders and superannuation experts – says such a rise is critical to close the gender gap in retirement savings and improving the wellbeing of all Australians.
Campaign convenor and a signatory of the letter, AIST CEO Fiona Reynolds says that despite nearly 20 years of compulsory superannuation, Australian women still retire an average with about half the superannuation of men.
The letter says the average retirement payout for women is estimated to be $70,000, compared to about $150,000 for men. The majority of women have retirement balances well below this average, and are therefore far more likely to be reliant on the Age Pension.
It says women need to make their retirement savings last longer, as on average live longer than men, and increasing the the compulsory super rate to 12% would add around $100,000 to the retirement balance of the average worker.
The letter says women face more barriers in saving for their retirements than – on average they earn 17% less than men, their careers are often interrupted to raise a family, and they are more likely to work in part time or casual roles and there can sometimes miss out on superannuation altogether.
Proposed legislation to increase the Superannuation Guarantee from 9 to 12% by 2019/20 is expected to be debated in Parliament later this year.