More Investment into Girls Entering Work – Mission Australia
Wednesday, 20th November 2013 at 9:58 am
Community Not for Profit Mission Australia has called for more investment in young women entering the workforce after the COAG Reform Council’s latest report showed women and girls lag behind their male counterparts after leaving school.
Mission Australia spokesperson Martin Thomas said the latest report from the COAG Reform Council Tracking equity: Comparing outcomes for women and girls across Australia illustrated a massive gap between men and women in the workplace, and confirms what we are hearing from young women across the country.
“As a major provider of community and employment programs, we know that education and employment are the keys to avoiding or escaping a life of poverty and disadvantage,” Thomas said.
“While Australia is leading the way in providing strong education opportunities for girls, we can’t accept a situation where our young women are immediately pushed down the ladder the moment they step outside the classroom – the implications for those women and for our whole community are far too great.”
The report shows that although girls generally outperform boys at school, they are less likely overall to transition from school to full engagement in work, education or a combination of the two, with 73.5 per cent of young women (aged 18–24) compared to 79.3 per cent of young men fully engaged in employment, education or training.
“Why is it when we have structured and supportive equality inherent in the education system, girls flourish? Yet, once out in the employment market they have to fight to have their value realised,” COAG Chairman John Brumby said.
He said despite the considerable work done over the last 30 years to narrow the pay gap, even upon graduation women’s salaries were below those of male graduates. The pay gap between men and women remains at 17.5 per cent.
The report showed that workforce participation rates were lower for women and they were also underrepresented in leadership roles in both the public and private sector.
“The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report recently ranked Australia first in female educational attainment out of 136 participating countries—but when it came to labour force participation we plummeted to 52nd,” he said.
For women from lower socio-economic areas, the report found that 53.6 per cent of young women living in the most disadvantaged areas were fully engaged in work or study after leaving school, compared to 82.1 per cent of their female peers in the least disadvantaged areas.
“The massive gap in workforce participation between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ requires urgent attention,” Thomas said.
“It’s bad enough that women in general continue to face an uphill battle to achieve equity with their male colleagues in the workforce. But the fact that the gap between ‘rich and poor’ is even worse among women demonstrates the desperate need for more to be done.
“We want all young Australians to have a great start in life – and helping them to make a strong transition from school to work or further study and training is one of the most important steps.”
Thomas said the report also highlighted a disturbing trend of financial disadvantage for those women who did manage to make the transition from school to work.
“Pay discrimination and financial disadvantage starts as soon as women enter the workforce and continues to retirement,” Thomas said.
“In 2012, the median starting salary for female bachelor degree graduates (under 25) in their first full-time employment was $50,000, unchanged from 2011. The equivalent rate for men was $55,000 in 2012, up from $52000 in 2011. Over the past 10 years the median graduate starting salary for men has increased at a faster rate (44.7 per cent since 2003) than for women (37.7 per cent since 2003).
“Things are no better for women later in life with the average weekly earnings for women 17.5 per cent lower than men’s (based on ordinary-time earnings).
“In 21st century Australia this is just not good enough.
“It means that when times are tough, women have less to survive on; their financial security is weaker than men’s making them more vulnerable to disadvantage and poverty.
“When we consider the findings in today’s report in relation to homelessness and domestic violence we can see one of the tragic consequences of this level of gendered financial insecurity.
“The report found more than one third of women using homelessness services reported domestic violence and family violence as the reason. Nearly a fifth of the women also reported financial reasons as the main reason for needing those services.
“If we provided greater employment outcomes for women we can boost their financial security – and for those suffering from domestic and family violence their ability to start fresh could improve.”
Brumby said there was cause for some optimism that educational gains in the younger age groups signal generational change would have positive flow-on effects in other areas of reform.
Brumby also said, generally, women live healthier, longer lives than men.
“There are some positives to take from the report and we need to look at how we can build on those,” he said.
“In this highly competitive global environment we simply cannot afford to waste the talents and perspective of half of our population.”
The council’s report was compiled at the request of the COAG Select Council on Women’s Issues to assist in the development of a National Framework for Gender Equality.
“We have recommended to COAG that we report annually on gender against a core set of indicators to ensure gender equity maintains its place as a matter of national priority,” Brumby said.
Tracking equity: comparing outcomes for women and girls across Australia, reports on progress against COAG’s goals for reform and improved economic and social participation.
To download the report, visit www.coagreformcouncil.gov.au.