Rebecca Gredley and Belinda Tasker
(Australian Associated Press)
The federal government says Australia’s gender pay gap is trending in the right direction, as new data shows the gap has narrowed to 21.3 per cent.
The nation’s latest annual snapshot reveals men are earning on average $25,717 more than women, while many companies aren’t doing anything to bring pay packets into line despite analysing their payrolls and identifying the issue.
While the pay gap has shrunk by a welcome 1.1 percentage points, men still out-earn women in every industry, occupation and management category, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency says.
It’s the largest annual drop since data began being collected five years ago.
Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer concedes there is a lot more to do.
“We can be proud of the fact it is trending in the right direction,” she said.
The gap will close quicker when men have more flexibility to take time off work to care for their families, shaking up traditional gender based roles, the minister told reporters in Sydney.
WGEA director Libby Lyons says the frustrating pace of change is partially due to many companies failing to introduce strategies to close the pay gap, despite nearly three quarters having gender equality policies.
While there’s been a steady rise in the number of employers scrutinising pay data to detect pay gaps, 41.5 per cent haven’t taken any action beyond that.
The agency will begin offering organisations with the support and the tools they need to close their pay gaps, as anecdotal evidence suggests some “don’t know where to start”.
“I think (also that some) HR departments take the initiative to do a pay gap analysis, get the results and are quite shocked by what they’ve seen and fear taking it up the chain to the executives and the board,” Ms Lyons told AAP.
“They then sweep it under the carpet and think it will go away.”
The federal government on Monday committed an extra $8 million towards the agency, in a bid to improve reporting on the issue in the public sector.
The financial services sector continues to have the biggest pay gap – 30.3 per cent – but it has narrowed by about six percentage points since 2013.
But the construction sector’s gap increased to 29.4 per cent, nearly six times that of the sector with the narrowest pay gap, public administration and safety.
Meanwhile more women have been promoted into management jobs in the past year, but the number of female chief executives and board directors has barely changed.
Ms Lyons is hopeful of seeing more women CEOs as more females take on senior management jobs, and says more transparency is needed with board appointments.
Asked about Labor’s pledge to force companies with more than 1000 workers to disclose gender pay gaps if it wins the next election, Ms Lyons said pay gaps were a symptom of the broader issue of gender equality.
Labor leader Bill Shorten says the pledge would “open a few eyes” and should be paired with pay increases in sectors with primarily female workers, such as childcare, aged care and disability support.
United Voice says the gender pay gap won’t close unless such employees are offered more pay, and that data on the issue needs to include a broader range of businesses to better reflect the reality.
MIND THE GAP
* Men take home $25,717 a year more than women on average
* Construction sector’s pay gap rose two percentage points to 29.4pct
* Financial services/insurance has the biggest pay gap at 30.3pct
* Healthcare’s – Australia’s most female-dominated industry – pay gap rose 1.4 percentage points to 16.1pct
* Women now comprise 39.1pct of all managers
* 43.3pct of all management jobs went to women last year
* Female CEOs increased by 0.6 percentage points to 17.1pct
* Women board directors increased by 0.9pct to 25.8pct
* Firms that analysed pay data rose four percentage points to 41.6pct
* But 40pct of those who analysed their data took no action to close the pay gap
(Source: Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s 2017-18 Gender Equality Scorecard)