Australia’s gender pay gap to last for another 50 years

Article by Tom McIlroy /
Brisbane Times /
July 27, 2017 /
Click here to view original /

The entrenched gender pay gap is expected to remain in Australian workplaces until at least 2067, a federal government agency has told Parliament.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency boss Elizabeth Lyons was asked during Senate estimates hearings how long it would take for the gap between men and women’s pay to be closed in Australia.

The answer is a stark reminder for employers, women and men in the workplace.

Ms Lyons said told the committee this week the agency was only three years into collecting data on the pay gap, but based on the current research, it was likely that a gender pay gap favouring of men “will remain a persistent feature of the Australian economy for years to come”.

Citing research showing countries including the United States, France and Italy could be 100 years away from closing the pay gap, Ms Lyons said there would no quick solution here.

“Recent analysis has estimated the number of years for the gender pay gap to close across a range of countries, including Australia,” she said.

“The analysis estimates that Australia is 50 years away from closing the pay gap, with some countries being as far as 300 years away.”

Last month, the latest Australian Public Service Remuneration Report found women in the public service are paid on average 8.6 per cent less than their male colleagues, below the 19.6 per cent private sector pay gap.

The first time the government gender pay gap was measured, the report found across the entire workforce the average base salary for women was $84,104, well below the $92,036 base salary for men.

In March, the agency said the pay gap had narrowed slightly but only because of downward economic trends.

The gap in salaries dropped from 23.9 per cent in 2015 to 23.1 per cent last year.

In dollar terms, it found the gap between women and men working in senior roles had shrunk from $100,000 to $93,000.

Lara Corr, senior research fellow at Swinburne University’s Department of Social Sciences, said the findings were stark.

“It is so important for us to not pretend, to delude ourselves that this is an unfixable or unchangeable problem,” she said. “It is quite straightforward to make workplaces more fair.”

“Any inequity impacts on the health of workers, their productivity, their presence, their absence from work and how long they’re going to stay in that job.

“Paying women more for the same position will cost the business more but there’s plenty of evidence that workplaces with more women in senior positions are more successful companies overall.”

Melbourne University School of Social and Political Sciences lecturer Lauren Rosewarne said pay gap data was alarming but not surprising.

“The reality is that this is a disparity women know well,” she said. “The economic discrimination of women has been an issue on the feminist agenda for decades.

“Data like this is a reminder that moves towards equality aren’t just going to happen as a result of some kind of natural move towards fairness.

She said any effective plan to reach pay equity required changes beyond legislation.

“Culturally for example, attitudes need to change. We need to adjust our thinking about the value of women, about the value of their economic contributions.”