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Gender pay gap hits record low as full-time female workforce grows

The economic progress of women is set to accelerate as new data shows a record low in the gender pay gap and more women
February 21, 2019

A record high in the number of women in full-time work has helped the national gender pay gap drop to a fresh 20 year low of 14.1 per cent.

Using the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Average Weekly Earnings trend series data, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) has calculated the national gender pay gap has narrowed to show a $239.80 per week difference between the earnings of men over women.

On average, women working full-time earned $1455.80 while men working full-time earned $1695.60.

The data comes ahead of the release of the next quarterly Financy Women’s Index on International Women’s Day March 8, which will look at the areas of strength and regression in the national gender pay gap as well as the workforce trends among Australian women.

New ABS labour force data also released today, shows that the number of women in full-time employment rose to 3.23 million in January of this year, up from 3.22 at the end of the December quarter.

One of the key explanations for the gender wage disparity is the ratio of women to men in full-time employment.

There are now over 5.5 million men in full-time work as of this January, compared to 5.49 in December.

The national gender pay gap is the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time ordinary time earnings, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. It is a measure of women’s overall position in the paid workforce and does not compare like-for-like roles.

Indeed, the absence of like-for-like reporting creates much debate about the existence of the gender pay gap.

That said, education data on graduate salaries shows a widespread gender pay gap the moment women complete tertiary studies and enter the workforce alongside their male peers.

Research shows the main factors contributing to the gender pay gap are:

  • discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions
  • women and men working in different industries and different jobs, with female-dominated industries and jobs attracting lower wages
  • women’s disproportionate share of unpaid caring and domestic work
  • lack of workplace flexibility to accommodate caring and other responsibilities, especially in senior roles
  • women’s greater time out of the workforce impacting career progression and opportunities.

Libby Lyons, Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency says there has been a strong increase in employer action on gender equality. As a result, we are seeing some real improvements.

“More employers are analysing their pay data for pay gaps. More employers are then taking action to ensure women and men are equally rewarded and remunerated. These actions by Australian employers are a key contributing factor in the ongoing decrease in the gender pay gap.

“However, we have to keep our foot on the pedal and maintain momentum. I now want to see all Australian employers take action on addressing pay equity.

“It is not hard. Do a pay gap analysis. Develop an action plan with targets. Report the results to the executive and board and monitor your progress. It is that easy. If every employer did this, we would close the gender pay gap pretty quickly.”

Despite this positive result, Ms Lyons also said that the national gender pay gap remains an important reminder that women continue to face significant barriers in the workplace, particularly in terms of pay.

“The gender pay gap is a symptom of a broader cultural problem in our workplaces. It reflects that women’s work is traditionally undervalued and women are under-represented in senior executive and management roles. Average full-time salaries are lower for women than men in every occupation and industry in Australia and female-dominated occupations and industries attract lower pay than male-dominated ones,” she said.

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February 21, 2019
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