The gender pay-gap is getting worse, not better, with new figures out yesterday showing the wage disparity between men and women has blown out to a two-decade high of 18.8 per cent.
The figures show that full time workers, when averaged across all industries, will earn $298 less per week if they happen to be a woman.
The data, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, follows an announcement on Wednesday by the Employment Minister Eric Abetz which seeks to seriously water down gender reporting requirements for business, a move condemned by trade unionists and The Greens.
“If the Coalition Government is serious about addressing gender inequality […] it needs to strengthen workplace gender equality reporting,” President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Ged Kearney said.
“The government has delayed its decision about what details businesses will be required to report for women in non-management roles, which represents the majority of women in the workforce.
“Without meaningful data, employers cannot identify where gender pay gaps exist and take action to address discrimination and barriers many women face,” Kearney said.
Labor’s Shadow Minister for Women, Senator Claire Moore, agreed that real data was needed and said the ABS figures highlighted the need for action.
But she welcomed the government’s announcement that a working group will be established to consider future reporting requirements for non-management positions as a good first step.
“This is essential to expose the blockages to career progression,” Moore said.
The Greens’ Spokesperson for Women, Senator Larissa Waters, was less enthused.
She condemned the removal of “important gender equality indicators” for companies with more than 100 employees which remove the requirement for big companies to report on the gender equity of CEO salaries, perks, job applications and interviews.
"Data on job applications and interviews at the managerial level, where the pay gap is highest, is especially important, as it would show where the glass ceiling is the most impenetrable,” Waters said.
But the Employment Minister, Eric Abetz, has defended the moves, which he says will reduce the overall cost of reporting by one third, based on future requirements which were due to be introduced in April.
“Reporting must be structured in a way that will provide the most value to employers in return for the effort of reporting,” he said.
The women of Australia, though, continue to be short-changed by the industrial relations framework on the whole.
On Monday a Productivity Commission report into early childhood education and care provided few answers on how to level the playing field for working mothers.
“Additional workplace participation will be small,” at around 1.2 per cent, even if the commission’s recommendations are adopted, the report conceded.
The report confirms earlier research, which shows that a complex network of tax and welfare arrangements often mean it’s not worth a mother’s while to go back to work, even if access to quality childcare is improved.
A separate Productivity Commission inquiry, tasked with reviewing the workplace relations framework on the whole, may provide more solutions when it reports in November.
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