NEWS

Equal Pay Day: Women Are Paid On Average $251 A Week Less Than Men

Pay disparity is having long-term consequences.

04/09/2017 12:18 PM AEST | Updated 04/09/2017 12:18 PM AEST

It's Equal Pay Day and the Federal Government's gender equality agency is warning women in full-time work are being paid on average 15.3 percent less than men in full-time work, a difference of $251 per week.

The gap is weighing on women's retirement funds, said Jackie Woods, head of engagement at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), with women retiring with half the superannuation savings as men.

"It's a lot," Woods told the ABC's AM program, referring to the $251.20 difference in average pay between men and women.

"And this is women working full time. And we know that in fact most women work part time at three times the rate of men.

Key facts

  • The national gender pay gap is 15.3 percent. It has declined from 16.2 percent in the past 12 months;
  • On average, men working full-time earned $1,638.30 and women earned $1,387.10, a difference of $251.20 per week.

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  • The gender pay gap is highest in the 45-54 age group at 20.0 percent;
  • In the past 20 years, the national gender pay gap was highest in 2014 at 18.5 percent and lowest in 2004 at 14.9 percent;
  • Increasing women's workforce participation by 6 percent could add $25 billion a year to Australia's GDP.

"This pattern also dramatically reduces their earning capacity to the point where people retiring on average with half the superannuation savings as men."

In its report Not So Super, For Women released in early, think tank Per Capita found data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirmed women's superannuation balances are systemically lower than men's.

The gap increases throughout their working lives, reaching $70,000 by the statutory retirement age of 65, while the median women's superannuation balance immediately prior to retirement was less than $80,000.

"(It) would fund less than three years of retirement even on the most basic living standard," the report said.

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In October last year mining giant BHP set an ambitious gender equality target of 50:50 by 2025.

It was one of a series of regular announcements from companies in recent years committing to improved targets and conditions, such as parental leave schemes for men as well as women.

"Measures that support women to return to work after parental leave, and have shorter career gaps around parenting, actually will help women on a better trajectory to earning better incomes," Woods said.

"Programs that aim for a better balance between women and men in the work force, juggling that unpaid care work and participating and progressing through the paid work force, I think absolutely there's a good chance that they can help lower the gender pay gap."

WGEA Director Libby Lyons said Equal Pay Day was an important reminder of the continuing barriers women face accessing the same financial rewards for their work as men.

She praised Australia as having achieved genuine equality between women and men in education.

"However, the persistent gender pay gap reflects the barriers women face in accessing equivalent pay packets to men," she said in a statement.

"This is bad news for the economy, because it shows that business is not drawing on the enormous talent available in the female workforce."

The gender pay gap is influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • Discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions;
  • Women and men working in different industries and different jobs, with female-dominated industries and jobs attracting lower wages;
  • Women's disproportionate share of unpaid caring and domestic work;
  • Lack of workplace flexibility to accommodate caring and other responsibilities, especially in senior roles;
  • Women's greater time out of the workforce impacting career progression and opportunities.

"And it is a disaster for women, who are retiring with vastly smaller nest eggs than men due to the compounding effect of the gender pay gap and their far greater time spent on unpaid care work.

The WGEA report comes as early childhood educators announce a national, sector-wide walk offs this week billed as the biggest early education walk off in the country's history.

Frustrated that what it says is the Federal Government's "continually failing" to address the equal pay as an issue, thousands of early childhood educators are expected to walk off the job on Thursday.

"It is outrageous that in 2017 female-dominated industries are still fighting to receive equal pay. This needs to be a national priority," said Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary of the union United Voice.