7 January 2024

Businesses on notice as government prioritises closing the gender pay gap

| Chris Johnson
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Katy Gallagher

Minister for Women Katy Gallagher is taking action to close the gender pay gap. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Federal Government is beginning the year with a concerted push to close the gender pay gap for women, determined to publish pay gaps of Australian businesses with 100 or more employees.

The figures will be published next month and are a key element of the government’s gender pay gap legislation that passed last year.

Labor insists the reform will create transparency in wages and drive action towards closing the gender pay gap.

Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said policy on women’s economic security had languished for too long.

“Women continue to experience a gender pay gap due to factors like highly gender-segregated industries and workforces, because of the time women take out of the workforce for caring responsibilities, and because of the high rates of women working part time in Australia,” she said.

“Not only do these factors contribute to the gender pay gap, but they compound over a lifetime, and this results in a massive lifetime gender earnings gap.”

The Minister said closing the gender pay gap was a priority for the government.

On current projections, it will take about 26 years to close the gender pay gap, but Senator Gallagher said women shouldn’t have to wait a quarter of a century to see pay parity.

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“Publishing gender pay gaps is an important step in raising awareness, and holding organisations to account where there is a gender pay gap across their organisation. And that’s a big change,” she said.

“Already, we are seeing some companies proactively reach out to WGEA [Workplace Gender Equality Agency] to share their analysis of their challenges and actions for closing the gender pay gap in their workforces. It’s great to see employers stepping up and being real partners in this effort.

“I think for those that have a significant gender pay gap, they’re going to have to change the way they do things.

“But we are not just looking at pay gaps, but at all the areas that connect to women’s economic safety, security and equality.

“As a government committed to working for women, we will never stop looking for ways to support women, and this year I’ll be releasing a national strategy to achieve gender equality in Australia.”

WGEA data looks at businesses with 100 or more employees and includes annualised full-time-equivalent salaries of casual and part-time workers.

It captures base salary, overtime, bonuses and additional payments for those companies.

In 2023, women’s workforce participation reached a record high of 62.9 per cent, and women made up 60 per cent of enrolments in fee-free TAFE last year.

The Coalition described the legislation as ”terrible” and ”negative”.

“This legislation is so bad, it is a giant step backwards,” Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said when discussing the bill.

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Other government reforms being rolled out in 2024 include youth, student or carer support payments to receive a 6 per cent indexation increase; an additional 300,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places to be made available over the next two years, with places prioritised for women facing economic insecurity and women undertaking study in non-traditional fields; and from July, families will be able to access an additional two weeks of paid parental leave up to a total of 22 weeks.

To support the cost of living while training, about 38,000 apprentices and trainees will now be eligible for financial assistance, under the expanded Australian Apprenticeship Support Loans scheme.

The scheme now includes non-trade apprentices and trainees for the first time, in areas such as early childhood education, aged care and disability care.

Senator Gallagher said the extension of the loans would particularly benefit women, who made up the majority of non-trade apprentices.

The National Skills Agreement came into effect on 1 January, committing $250m to improve VET completions, including for women and others who face completion challenges.

And women with advanced ovarian cancer now have access to cheaper medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, saving around $123,000 per treatment cycle.

Employer gender pay gaps will be published on 27 February at wgea.gov.au.

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Figures will be worse in 10 years time. Labor just trashed the family law system.

The easiest way of addressing businesses gender pay gap is to reduce opportunities for part time work. I think then you may find it balances in the private sector as well.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

It could be pointed out that the public service is majority women, there are plenty of women across government and it is now trust in government has never been lower. Not suggesting there is a causation, but I would say that exactly this kind of policy is exactly why trust is so low.

William Newby9:38 pm 09 Jan 24

A valid argument but a flawed one when all facts are considered.
Why this country continues to focus on females getting the top jobs and earning top wages all while ignoring men making up most of prison system, most of our suicide deaths, only 25% of our university graduates (while most scholarships are still for females only), most of our workplace deaths, most of our road deaths.
This countries blind assumption that all men are winning and must be held back while females fill quotas is equally unfair.
Where is the Minister for Men to address all these social issues?
Today’s boys, men of the future are already being so unfairly discriminated against in 25 years they will be the slaves of society.

GrumpyGrandpa9:24 pm 08 Jan 24

In my working life of some 45 years, men and women doing the same job, were paid the same. There was never a difference in pay based on gender.
There were difference in pay when people were in different roles or where people did the same job, but worked longer or shorter shifts.
Gender pay equality is an illogical because gender in employment actually is irrelevant. It’s the positions that people work in, the type of work they do and the number of hours they work, which determines pay levels.

Your right, the gap occurs when Male worker continues to work, earning money , advancing pay and Female worker has a child or two and is the. 18 months out of the workforce, now being 18 – 24 months behind Male worker in Super and pay advancements.

I have worked for the same length of time GG. There were different pay levels for men and women doing the same job during my time in the PS in the 80s and 90s. It was disgraceful and is hard to believe today. Women even had to leave if they fell pregnant. I know women who hid their pregnancies for as long as they could and the financial hardships they went through when they were discovered and forced to leave. We even used to talk about the unfairness of it all at the time.

Go to the National Library and look on Microfiche at the job vacancies in the Canberra Times at the time which advertised PS jobs with the different male and female pay rates! It is there for all to see!!

Jack D,
I’d love to see you link some evidence for your claims around different male and female pay rates in the 80’s and 90’s, seeing as it had been made illegal long before that, with the equal pay cases of the late 60’s early 70’s.

You seem to have a habit of claiming things are there for “all to see”. Perhaps you should provide some evidence then.

This is only for women. If women were paid more she would do nothing.

Public service is 60% women. Why are men not joining the public service?
Its a trend thats been happening the last 50 years. In 20 years time they’ll only be women in the public service

Terrence O\'Brien1:32 pm 08 Jan 24

We could try forcing the perfect equalisation of family and workplace responsibilities for men, women and other genders at all ages; perfect equalisation of women’s and other genders’ participation in dangerous, dirty and physically demanding occupations, and affirmative action until we get equal outcomes for all genders. Let’s completely socialise child bearing and raising, to get messy individual preferences for families and parenthood out of the equation.

But let’s face it, we’ll never get the Katy Gallaghers of this world off our backs. They have their dream society, and our preferences have no place it it.

Here’s a radical idea. How about they publish how many years the person has been in the workforce so we can compare apples with apples.

There are various news articles about employers cutting wages of WFH employees refusing to come back into the office. Watch the narrative about those employees being female and adding fuel to the gender pay gap. Conveniently left out of the equation will be male WFH employees being in the same boat – nothing to see here

You might also want to include all the government payments that are mainly for women, include child support and everything else.

Someone earning 20k with kids is more like 80k after benefits is paid.

William Newby9:32 pm 09 Jan 24

We can’t go using pesky facts and clarity in this argument.
A male CEO on $500,00 and a female secretary on $80,000 = complete misogyny to the value of $420,000 a year under Gallagher’s eyes.
To reach these targets females are already being promoted over males with more years service and more experience.
The best person for the job no longer matters in this world.

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