Wednesday 28 August 2019 is Gender Pay Day.
This date illustrates the 59 additional days from the end of the previous financial year that women must work in order to earn the same amount as men earn in twelve months.
Gender Pay Day is an important reminder of the continuing barriers women face in accessing the same opportunities and benefits as men in Australian workplaces.
WA is the “winner” of this dubious honour – again
Western Australia has the highest gender pay gap of any state or territory in Australia at 21.8%. The national average is 14%. One positive in this year’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) report regarding the gap in WA, is that it dropped by a 0.8% from the same time in 2018. This is hardly cause for huge celebration.
In WA, the gap also contributes to financial stress surrounding housing insecurity with women over 55 becoming the fastest growing demographic among the homeless. About 48 per cent of women in WA worry about money either daily or weekly, compared with 40 per cent of men with the percentage even higher if you are in the regions, according to a survey conducted by The West and WA Super.
The differences in the gender pay gap can be partly explained by industry profiles of each state and territory. For example, the full-time workforce in Western Australia is concentrated in Mining and Construction sectors, industries with relatively high earnings and low representation of women.
Many academics, feminists and economists have debated rigorously over the reasons why the gap exists in the first place and many have come to the conclusion that it is plain discrimination, in many cases.
National Gender Pay Gap. Complacency Remains
The fact that the national Gender Pay Gap has hovered between 15% and 19% for the past two decades is sad indictment on what our Governments and Employers consider as priorities.
What Does It All Mean?
The Gender Pay Gap is a symbol of women’s position in the workforce in comparison to men.
It is the difference between the average earnings of women and men in the entire Australian workforce and is the result of different social and economic factors that have a tremendous impact on how women and men live their lives.
It reflects the fact that women’s work is traditionally undervalued, and women are often paid less than men. In fact, average full-time salaries are lower for women than men in every occupation and industry in Australia. As well, women are under-represented in senior executive and management roles and female dominated occupations and industries attract lower pay than male dominated ones.
Research[i] shows that 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 leadership roles.
- Women’s greater time out of the workplace impacting career progression and opportunities.
It Is Time For Change
Women currently make up 49% of Australian workplaces and more than 70% of education employees, and yet, there are still far too many challenges confronting women in the workplace.
These challenges exist because workplace rules are broken and the Federal Government has failed to address the issues.
The Federal Government has failed to:
- To implement a living wage, failed to support people with caring responsibilities;
- To address the inequality of superannuation payments;
- To rectify the inadequacies of the Fair Work Act.
Because of the Federal Government’s failure to act, women are adversely affected.
Women are increasingly locked out of a secure retirement; women make up the majority of workers reliant on a minimum wage; women are more vulnerable to exploitative, casualised and insecure forms of work and due to deep rooted social norms, women face more disruptions over their working life by taking on the majority of the caring responsibilities for children, family members and/or aging parents.
On Gender Pay Day, IEU members call upon the Federal Government to stop short changing women and start addressing gender inequality by:
- Setting Targets and Timeframes to Accelerate Change.
Setting targets for action has the potential to close the gender pay gap within a significantly shortened timeframe and will strengthen the impact and implementation of policies.
- Implement measures which increase pay transparency.
The Fair Work Act must to be amended to ensure greater effectiveness of Equal Remuneration Orders. Alternative mechanisms need to be developed to address the undervaluing of women’s work. Pay secrecy clauses in employee contracts must be banned and any adverse action to employees who openly discuss wages or salaries prevented. Greater resources and support must be provided to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and its work.
- Provide greater support for working parents and carers
Parents and carers’ need the right to temporary part time work. Legislation for 26 weeks paid parental leave is overdue and superannuation must be paid on the Commonwealth Paid Parent Leave Scheme.
- Remove structural inequalities in the superannuation system
Ensure that superannuation is paid on all leave accruals and on the unpaid component of parental leave. Implement further increases in the Superannuation Guarantee rate. Remove the exemption for superannuation payments for employees earning less than $450 per month. Set a superannuation objective that supports the continuation of a strong three pillar retirement income system and includes specific reference to women’s incomes. Amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to ensure companies are permitted to make higher superannuation payments for their female employees.
On Gender Pay Day, IEU members stand up and say: It is time for change!
[i] Workplace Gender Equality Agency. www.wgea.gov.au