'Fundamental structural change' needed to fix gender pay gap

Australian Gender Equality Council CEO, Kim Amos, said real significant change in the gender pay gap will only come with fundamental structural change.

The comment by Ms Amos came on the back of an address by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to the National Press Club on Equal Pay Day in which he called for “real action” when it comes to women getting paid the same as men as Australia.

Equal Pay Day 2022 recognises that it has taken until August 29 to close the national gender pay gap, which is 14.1 per cent this year – a rise of 0.3 percentage points over the last six months.

That’s an extra 60 extra days after the end of the financial year that Australian women must work, on average, to earn the same annual salary earned by their male peers.

The Prime Minister said shifting the gender pay gap is going to take more than legislative change and flagged a revitalising of bargaining and negotiation and the need for new leadership on respect and safety and fairness for working women.

His speech, which marked 100 days in office, came ahead of the much-anticipated jobs and skills summit where women’s economic opportunities will be a key focus.

The government is examining a union proposal for industry-wide bargaining as a way to give low-paid workers in female-dominated industries a pay rise with the potential to close the gender pay gap.

Mr Albanese called for a new “culture of cooperation” to “sweep aside the persistent, structural barriers that prevent women from securing decent jobs and careers and enjoying financial security over their lives”.

'Fix the causes, not just the symptoms'

The AGEC is calling on the jobs summit to work with women in fixing the causes, not just the symptoms of gender-based issues in the workforce with a comprehensive, well researched National Gender Equality Strategy that integrates across all areas of government.

“This should then be bolstered by the introduction of a National Gender Equality Act, similar but built upon Victoria’s Gender Equality Act where organisations are given KPIs around gender equality in the workforce that have to be met and actioned.”

Ms Amos called for reforms to the Fair Work Act to protect contract and casual workers - many of whom are women. “Contract, casual and part-time work leads to work vulnerability. This was shown during COVID. It also adds to progressive poverty across a woman’s life continuum. The Fair Work Act needs to address more rigour around this giving these workers employee status because currently employment laws don’t protect them.”

“To improve the gender pay gap we need to compare like for like work in the current system. Until we can compare that, we’re not going to get the dramatic shifts that are needed. It’s the childcare worker versus boiler maker argument. If we can’t compare responsibilities and qualifications that are equivalent between sectors and pay accordingly then no changes to pay equality will occur. We need to improve pay rates in these highly-feminised industries to address like for like responsibilities and qualifications.”

She said universal childcare needs to be on the table, in order to boost workforce participation by women and bridge the skills gap shortage. “While we are looking to an already depleted migrant workforce to address the skills shortages in female dominated industries, we know that there are women that can do any of these jobs but they just can’t afford childcare.

This Equal Pay Day, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) is calling on employers to take urgent action on gender equality by pursuing five steps to close the gender pay gap:

  1. Conduct a pay gap audit, develop an action plan and establish accountabilities,
  2. Set targets to promote gender equality at all levels of the organisation,
  3. Design leadership roles that can be part-time and promote women into leadership positions,
  4. Normalise flexible working arrangements, and;
  5. Introduce a robust gender neutral paid parental leave policy.
See Claire's Braund's comment on this

Gender pay gap rise, inflation 'the perfect storm' for women

Latest newsRSS