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Slashing Penalty Rates Hurts Women And Does Little For The Gender Pay Gap

Cuts to female-dominated industries isn't exactly 'progressive'.

23/02/2017 11:41 AM AEDT | Updated 23/02/2017 6:40 PM AEDT

The Fair Work Commission's decision to slash penalty rates will hurt millions of workers in the retail, hospitality and fast-food industries. But women will suffer the most.

Women currently comprise 46.2 percent of all employees in Australia and of that number almost half are working part-time, many of them employed in the industries directly affected.

"These are workers who were already in relatively low wage jobs with insecure, irregular schedules," Dr. Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute told The Huffington Post Australia.

Stanford said the decision is an "absolute slap in the face" for people who are already in a tough situation and women will bear a disproportionate amount of that burden.

"They sacrifice time with their families on weekends to try and pay the bills and for those predominantly working weekends alone, there will be a significant cut in their take home income," Stanford said.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, women make up 58.4 percent of the retail workforce with a high proportion employed as part-time workers while 51.8 percent make up the food and hospitality industry. The retail industry is also the largest employer of women aged under 25, with many part-time workers across all industries already wanting more hours of work.

Contrary to claims from the Turnbull government and business lobby, Stanford said the cuts will not increase employment.

"In retail and hospitality the economics are very clear, it's the amount of consumer spending that determines whether a store will stay open and you cannot increase demand by contributing lower level wages," Stanford said.

In 2016, the gender pay gap in the retail trade industry sat at 16.2 percent and across all industries, for those employed full-time it sat at 23.1 percent.

"This is not going to suddenly encourage more stores and restaurants to open on Sundays, all its going to do is impose a bit more hardship on people whose incomes were already inadequate," Stanford said.


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