Australia Falls Behind on Gender Pay

Australia has been a pioneer in equal pay legislation and mandated reporting on gender pay, yet has slipped behind other wealthy nations on gender equality.

The Bridging the Gap? gender pay report from the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, Australian National University and King’s College London has found the average Australian woman still has to work an extra 61 days a year to earn the same pay as the average man.

The report studied the gender pay gap reporting frameworks in Australia, France, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Based on 11 indicators, Australia received a score of 4 out of 11, ranking equal last with the UK. Spain was the top ranked nation, scoring 8.5.

Executive Director of Women on Boards, Claire Braund, said that the failure to make significant inroads into Australia's gender pay gap is alarming on many fronts in addition to the obvious one of gender discrimination.

"Warning bells should be sounding very loud across our boardrooms, workplaces and with governments that if we do not get action on this issue, then many Australian women will experience lower than average living standards and poverty. Older women are the fastest growing cohort of those experiencing homelessness. A persistent gender pay gap only perpetuates this inequity."

"Legislation and reporting are not enough to drive change. What is required is positive action from the public and private sectors and a commitment to sort this issue out before our children become pensioners," Claire Braund said,

The Australian case study is a companion report to 'Bridging the Gap? An analysis of gender pay gap reporting in six countries' released earlier in 2021 by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, chaired by former Australian Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard.

Several Australians sit on the advisory council as does WOB UK Founding Director, Fiona Hathorn. She said  action plans are crucial if we are going to shift the needle on gender inequality.

“Mandatory reporting is one thing but this new research by King’s College’ GIWL clearly shows that all countries need to force action plans as well as doing some sort of audits of pay report,”said Fiona.

“Earlier this year we found in our Hidden Truth report, were we looked at gender pay gaps reporting of FTSE All Share listed firms, that gender pay gaps reports are not only impossible to find on company websites but that also the pay gaps of our large listed companies were 24% higher on average with the bonus gaps being 80% higher. This is not good enough.”

Major contributors to the gender pay gap

Unpaid care

The disproportionate care burdens, for both children and elders, that women face have a significant impact on their ability to participate fully in the workforce.

Occupational and industrial segregation

Occupational segregation refers to the unequal distribution of women and men in particular occupations.


Disturbingly, the most significant contributor to the gender pay gap in Australia is gender discrimination, accounting for 39% of the gap in 2017.

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Recommendation 1: Publish gender pay gaps of individual organisations to enable external stakeholders to hold employers accountable for gender equality performance.
  • Recommendation 2: Nominate outcome-based minimum standards related to rolling average reductions in the gender pay gap to establish expectations for closing the gap.
  • Recommendation 3: Enact the existing non-compliance sanctions to exclude non-compliant organisations from government procurement, contracting and financial assistance to reaffirm Federal government commitment to gender equality and deter further slippage in compliance rates.

Read the Bridging the Gap? report HERE

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