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Australian Gender Pay Gap Widening

2 March 2015 at 9:53 am
Xavier Smerdon
The gender pay gap in Australia is now greater than it was in 1985 despite 30 years of the Australian business community working towards equal opportunity for women, according to the Diversity Council of Australia.

Xavier Smerdon | 2 March 2015 at 9:53 am


Australian Gender Pay Gap Widening
2 March 2015 at 9:53 am

The gender pay gap in Australia is now greater than it was in 1985 despite 30 years of the Australian business community working towards equal opportunity for women, according to the Diversity Council of Australia.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day on March 8 and the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA), the organisation looked at how far women have come in the workforce since 1985.

Lisa Annese, CEO of DCA, said that while more women are participating in paid work, women are better educated and they are slowly reaching positions of leadership in business, in some areas Australia seemed to be heading backwards.

Annese said that women’s underemployment has doubled, the gender pay gap has increased again instead of decreasing, and women are increasingly relegated to part time work which is very often low paid and low status.

According to the DCA’s figures, full time adult ordinary time earnings for women were 17.8 per cent less than men in 1985 – now they are 18.8 per cent less than men.

When it comes to underemployment the rate for women in 1985 was 5.3 per cent and it is now 11.2 per cent.

In 1985 women graduates earned an average of 95.7 per cent of male graduate starting salaries and now women graduates working full time earn an average of 93.8 per cent of male full time graduate earnings.

Annese said despite some improvements, the lack of progress in several key indicators shows Australia is still not properly valuing the contribution of women at work.

“The recent increases in the gender pay gap have been widely reported – but the fact that underemployment rates for women have also grown so much is disappointing. Clearly there are still some major barriers to Australian women fully participating in paid work,” Annese said.

“It is also surprising to see more women working part time. It’s obviously not getting any easier to combine full time work with having children. Major barriers continue to be limited access to quality, well paid and flexible work, as well as a lack of affordable and flexible childcare.

“There is now plenty of evidence to support the benefits of better utilising and rewarding the skills of women – benefits to workplaces and to the wider economy. With economists now having clearly established that increasing the workforce participation of women offers one of the greatest opportunities to increase global productivity, governments and employers must do more to change this picture. This International Women’s Day, Australia needs to do better by the next generation of working women.”

The DCA’s research also found that In 1986 49 per cent of families with dependents had both parents employed – now 62 per cent of families have both parents employed.

In 1985 46 per cent of women with kids aged 0-14 were participating in the paid workforce and of these 56 per cent worked part time whereas now 68 per cent of women with kids aged 0-14 are participating in the paid workforce, and 58 per cent work part time.

The DCA provided its top 10 tips for employers to support women in the workplace:

  1. Ensure flexible work is available to all employees at all levels of your organisation

  2. Design jobs, workflows and careers that can encompass flexible working

  3. Make sure your organisational culture enables both women and men to work flexibly and train managers on how to manage employees working flexibly

  4. Enable pregnant women and mothers to return to work and to continue to be valued members of the workforce with the same opportunities as their colleagues

  5. Undertake a pay equity audit and review your wage setting and pay scales to ensure part-timers are compensated in line with full-timers

  6. Put in place gender progressive performance evaluation and development that does not disadvantage employees working flexibly

  7. Pay superannuation on paid and unpaid parental leave

  8. Provide salary transparency

  9. Put strategies in place to promote more women into leadership positions

  10. Proactively address sexual harassment and discrimination to create an inclusive workplace culture.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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