Women earning $25,000 less than men

Women on average earn $25,534 less than men every year, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) latest gender pay gap report.

The gender pay gap for total remuneration dropped just 0.7 percentage points to 20.1 per cent in the year to March, according to the report.

Women’s average full-time base salary across all industries and occupations was 15 per cent, or $15,144 a year less than men’s.

The report said that while the gap was narrowing, all industries had a gender pay gap that favoured men, and more than 45 per cent of employers who undertook a pay gap analysis took no action to address it.

But access to paid parental leave is improving. More than 50 per cent of employers provided staff access to paid parental leave in addition to the government scheme.

WGEA chief executive Libby Lyons said even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Australian employers had become “complacent” about gender equality.

She said “fatigue” was kicking in at many organisations, which had been reporting data since 2013.

“They have now got to the point where they tick the box, but in order to drive changes you have to take action,” Ms Lyons said.

The WGEA’s data is based on 4943 reports from employers, covering more than four million employees, for the reporting period 1 April, 2019, to 31 March, 2020.

It indicates women’s overall position in the workforce. It does not compare like-for-like roles.

And it excludes CEOs, with just 10 of Australia’s top 200 listed companies having a female chief executive.

Libby Lyons

Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Libby Lyons says Australian employers have become complacent about achieving gender equality.(ABC News: Supplied)


Pandemic could see us go back a decade on gender equality

Ms Lyons said in the two years of the global financial crisis the gender pay gap increased by 2 percentage points and it took 10 years to fix that.

“We can’t afford history to repeat itself, for the gender pay gap to go up and for it to take a decade off what we have gained,” Ms Lyons said.

“As we move into the post-COVID recovery phase, we must make sure that women’s workforce participation is not sidelined.

“Our economic recovery depends on women having equal access to secure full-time jobs.”

Ms Lyons said she was still against introducing gender-based quotas in the way other countries had. Germany this week made it compulsory for most listed companies to have at least one woman on their board.

Ms Lyons said employers who did not take action to address pay gaps and increase women’s representation would fall behind.

“It will be to the peril of their business, to their shareholders’ dividends and to the employees that they wish to attract and retain [if employers don’t take action],” Ms Lyons said.

“I can’t think of any better stick or incentive than to ensure you drive increased productivity, increased performance and increased profitability.”

The report notes gender pay gaps are influenced by a number of factors that can include discrimination and bias.

But the pay gap is also influenced by women and men working in different industries and jobs. Women dominate part-time jobs (75 per cent) and casual roles (56.3 per cent).

Women also still take up a disproportionate share of unpaid caring and domestic work, spend greater time out of the workforce and are under-represented in senior roles.

Silhouette of a woman dressed in a business suit walking.

Women dominate part-time and casual jobs and are under-represented in senior roles.(AAP: Julian Smith)

Pay gaps by category and industry

A breakdown of the data shows every manager category and non-manager occupation had a gender pay gap for full-time employees that favours men.

The report said total remuneration gender pay gaps were influenced by a range of factors including non-salary benefits such as bonuses at senior levels, reliance on awards and collective agreements in some occupations, and the concentration of women and men in different industries.

The report recorded the largest decrease (1.8 percentage points) in the other executives/general managers category. But there was still a pay gap of $67,768 between men and women there.

And in the highest ranking ‘key management personnel’ category, the pay gap was $89,141.

There has, however, been a narrowing of the gap in five of the seven occupational categories. The only occupation with an increased gender pay gap this year was labourer, with a 0.9 percentage point rise — a gap of $15,099 a year.

Chart showing gender pay gap by occupation.

‘Financial and insurance services’ remains the industry with the highest total remuneration gender pay gap at 27.5 per cent, or a difference of $45,497 annually.

But that industry’s gender pay gap has dropped almost 2 percentage points this year and has decreased 8.6 percentage points since 2013-14.

Construction has replaced ‘rental, hiring and real estate services’ as the industry with the second-worst gender pay gap at 26.1 per cent or $36,361 annually.

The gender pay gap in the most heavily female-dominated industry — healthcare and social assistance — remained virtually unchanged (up from 14.7 per cent in 2015-16 to 15.7 per cent in 2019-20).

But even in this female-dominated industry, the pay gap is 15.7 per cent, or $16,700 a year.

The gender pay gap in the second most female-dominated industry — education and training — went up 0.4 percentage points to 9.2 per cent, or a $11,562 difference annually.

Gender pay gap shown via industry.

Almost half of all employers took no action to address pay gap

There was another increase in the number of employers analysing their payroll data for gender pay gaps (up 1.7 percentage points to 46.4 per cent), but fewer organisations were taking action to close their gender pay gaps

Among organisations that conducted a gender pap gap analysis, there was a significant drop in the number which reported taking action as a result (down 6.1 percentage points to 54.4 per cent).

More than 45 per cent of employers who undertook a pay gap analysis took no action to address it.

Chart showing analysis of gender pay gaps conducted by organisations.

The proportion of organisations reporting pay equity metrics to the executive dropped 4.7 per to 26.6 per cent and those correcting like-for-like gaps fell 2.2 percentage points to 26.7 per cent.

The only increase reported was a 2.3 percentage point rise to 9.2 per cent in the number of employers setting targets to reduce organisation-wide pay gaps.

And 68.9 per cent of employers who undertook a pay gap analysis and took no action to address it reported their analysis identified “no unexplained or unjustifiable pay gaps”.

However, the number of organisations implementing formal policies and strategies on remuneration with specific pay equity objectives is increasing.

According to the report, 63.8 per cent of organisations said they had a formal policy. Of those organisations, 43.1 per cent now have pay equity objectives in their remuneration policy and strategy.

There was also an increase in the number of employers with a formal policy or strategy to support employees experiencing family or domestic violence. It went up 6.2 percentage points to 66.4 per cent.

Paid parental leave still taken mostly by women

There has been improved access to paid parental leave. It reached a seven-year high.

For the first time since WGEA started collecting data, more than 50 per cent of employers said they provided staff access to paid parental leave, in addition to the government scheme.

But access to paid parental leave was highly dependent on the size and industry of the employer, with bigger ones generally offering more generous incentives.

Two parents hold the hands of a toddler.

Access to paid parental leave is highly dependent on the size and industry of the employer, with bigger ones generally offering more generous incentives.(Flickr: Kat Grigg)

Almost seven in 10 (69.4 per cent) of the employees had access to paid parental leave for primary carers (3,047,441 employees) and 46.4 per cent of employers offered paid parental leave for secondary carers.

Women accounted for the vast majority (93.5 per cent) of all primary carer’s leave used, with men accounting for only 6.5 per cent.

Of those employers offering paid primary carer’s leave, seven to 12 weeks was the most common length of leave.

chart showing carer's leave offered to employees.

Only 4.7 per cent of employers offered 18 or more weeks of primary carer’s leave.

Ms Lyons said it was positive that more than 50 per cent of employers said they provided staff access to paid parental leave, but overall employers needed to do more to ensure gender equality was achieved.

She said while the number of female CEOs and board directors was rising, “we are still decades away from achieving gender balance at the top levels of leadership”.

“Australian employers are on autopilot when it comes to improving gender equality,” Ms Lyons said.

“The issue is clearly not receiving the necessary attention to drive further change.”

Do you believe we will ever see parity between male and female wages? Should there be gender quotas on boards?

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