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The gender pay gap

Over a life time, the average Australian woman earns about $1 million less than the average man. How come this happens even after equal pay was won in 1973?

The gender pay gap is the difference between men and women’s income for work that is of either equal or comparable value. In 2013 the gap is 17.5 per cent, meaning women earn on average 82.5 per cent of men’s earnings.

Many reasons contribute to the inequality of earnings between men and women.

These include:

  • More women work part time and therefore earn only a proportion of full-time earnings. Increased work flexibility has resulted in an increase in part-time and casual work, which is dominated by women
  • Women take more responsibility for caring and household work. This means that their involvement in the workforce is decreased over time because of a commitment to raising young children, and the responsibility of unpaid domestic work.
  • Occupation and industry segregation. The majority of women work in a narrow range of occupations traditionally suited for females – e.g. child care workers, teachers or nurses. People in these occupations generally earn less than those working in male dominated industries
  • Women are less likely to get bonuses and benefits added to their wages. Women are also less likely to work overtime because they work in industries where overtime is not an option, and generally have more responsibilities to return to at home.
  • Women are under-represented in high paying company boss positions. Despite making up nearly half the workforce, less than 2 per cent of big company bosses are women.

 

To reduce the gender gap and help more women earn more money, here are are some of the strategies being considered by unions and women to make wages really equal:

  • Open training to all to increase access to skilled work.
  • Encouraging female workers to join unions: on average, female union members earn more money than females not belonging to a union.
  • Encourage men to share family responsibilities.
  • Make sure part-time workers get their share employment benefits.
  • Ensure equal opportunity at work through a fair selection process.
  • Make work more family friendly so men and women with children can stay at work.

Fast fact: Even though there are more women finishing secondary education, enrolled at University and in professional jobs than men, female graduate salaries are just 90.9% of male graduate salaries. In post-graduate jobs, female salaries are just 85% of male post-graduate salaries.

More in-depth facts and figures on pay inequity are available in a comprehensive ACTU fact sheet [1]