Still the rich man’s world

The gender pay gap has narrowed but your money still doesn’t go very far thanks to inflation.

The latest figures about the narrowing gender pay gap will be little comfort to women, the Australian Council of Trade Unions says.

According to the latest figures out of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the gender pay gap has narrowed in the six months from May 2022, from 14.1 per cent down to 13.3 per cent in November 2022.

This means on average, women still receive $255 per week less than men.

But there’s worse news: the gap between wages and prices now sits at 4.5 per cent, with inflation at 7.8 per cent in the December quarter. It’s the biggest ever fall in real wages.

ABS figures show that in the healthcare and social assistance industry, men working full time receive $2073.60 on average each week; in comparison, women earn $1635.80.

The drop in the gender pay gap can be attributed in part to last year’s increase in award wages.

“These figures highlight the importance of significant increases flowing from the Annual Wage Review as the majority of workers affected by a lift in minimum wages are women. Last years 5.2% increase made a real difference in the gender pay gap,” said ACTU president Michele O’Neil.

“The changes in workplace laws on bargaining, gender equality and pay equity will also play an important role. If women are to have justice in their workplaces, governments and industry must continue to make every effort to eliminate the unacceptable pay gap which unfairly disadvantages women and devalues and discourages their participation in the workplace.”

O’Neil said more action is needed to improve job security and lift wages.

“With spiralling inflation driven by corporate greed, rapid interest rate rises driven by an out-of-touch Reserve Bank and over a decade of stagnant wage growth, the unfortunate fact is that Australian women and their families have little to celebrate.”

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) noted that the latest pay gap data means that for every $1 a man earns, women earn 87 cents.

With the cost of living continuing to rise, WGEA noted the “disproportionate” impact of the pay gap.

“The gender pay gap is a handbrake on women’s ability to make ends meet. With inflation at 7.8 per cent, and rising, everyday essentials are becoming increasingly unaffordable,” Wooldridge said.

“Women are $253.50 worse off every single week as a result of their gender. Over the course of one year, the weekly difference of $253.50 adds up to $13,182. That’s income that could have gone towards meeting bills, mortgage repayments or additional contributions to superannuation funds for retirement.”

She said gender pay gaps reflect how society values men’s and women’s work.

“Employers who don’t make gender equality a priority will fail to attract and retain female talent and won’t benefit from the increased productivity, innovation and profitability that flows from embracing diversity in your workforce,” she said.

“We must not forget that today’s calculation is a limited reflection of the true gender pay gap because it doesn’t include bonuses, overtime payments or superannuation.”

When these factors are added, Wooldridge said the total remuneration gender pay gap is consistently 5 per cent greater than the gender pay gap for base salaries alone.

“Today’s gender pay gap also doesn’t include the wages of part-time or casual workers, many of whom are lower paid and also women,” Wooldridge added.

She said it’s time for employers and businesses to “step up and take action” to value and reward all employees.

“As a business leader, if you are aware that your organisation has a gender pay gap and you take no action to close it, you are effectively sending a message to women that the work they do is of less value than that of men.

“By closing Australia’s gender pay gap, we will improve the lives of Australian women, their families and communities and move closer towards the goal of being a world-leader in gender equality.”


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