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Gender pay gap: no improvement in Australia in 20 years

The gap between men’s and women’s earnings in Australia has shown no significant change in the last 20 years, according to the latest report. 

In recent years, the “gender pay gap” has been variously estimated in reports as between 16% and 18%. The new report by KPMG estimates the gap as being 16.2% and says the figure remains stubbornly high despite women’s education levels, skills and length of time in the workforce being less important as contributing factors than they used to be. 

So what’s the explanation for the gap – given that the principle of “equal pay for equal work” has been established in law in Australian since 1969? 

The answer, according to the report, lies first and foremost in “systemic” discrimination – the web of deep-seated social attitudes and behaviours that sees women commonly working in lower-paid jobs associated with the traditional “caring” roles. 

“Women’s work”, in short. About 80% of the healthcare workforce, for instance, is female. 

But more overt discrimination also plays a part, particularly in the promotion (or otherwise) of women into higher managerial roles. And women are also still more likely to have interrupted career paths as a result of taking time out of the workforce to care for children and/or the elderly. 

Unions say that Australia needs to do more to ensure that women are properly rewarded for their work and more adequately supported in their working lives through measures such as paid parental leave and provision of affordable child care.

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