Women’s talk welcome but long way to travel before gender pay gap closes


The Jobs Summit put a welcome focus on women’s workforce participation and reiterated the Government’s commitment to implementing some long-overdue reforms, but there is a long way to travel before we eliminate the gender pay gap in Australia, writes Claire Braund.


Reviewing the Outcomes from the Jobs and Skills Summit, the most encouraging areas for women’s participation mostly fall under the ‘complementary existing commitments’ heading.

However, VET reforms and increases to migrant intake will clearly alleviate pressures on the care and hospitality sectors and it is encouraging that some of the items flagged for immediate action were included in the WGEA Act Review recommendations, namely:

  • Strengthen existing reporting standards to require employers with 500 or more employees to commit to measurable targets to improve gender equality in their workplaces
  • Require businesses with 100 employees or more to publicly report their gender pay gap to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency
  • Require the Australian Public Service to report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and to set targets to improve gender equity in the public service

Childcare clearly continues to be a complex matter to solve, particularly if the 2015 Productivity Commission Report into the sector can be believed. This report told us that the strong preference of Australian parents for work that is part-time (38% compared with OECD average of 24%), particularly when children are young, and the impact of our tax and transfer system creates a strong disincentive for some parents to enter the workforce or to increase their hours of work.

Current Labour Force Statistics show us that:

  • 24.4% of couple families with children aged 0-4 years have both parents working full-time.
  • 73.7% of couple families with children under 15 have mothers who are employed.
  • 24.5% of couple families with children under 15 have one parent employed.

As the CEO of Australian Gender Equality Council, Kim Amos, said last week “real significant change in the gender pay gap will only come with fundamental structural change”. This includes increasing pay rates in highly feminised industries. 

Read more:

Read RMIT’s Leonore Risse: How the jobs summit shifted gender equality from the sidelines to the mainstream

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