Gender Inequality in Australia’s Labour Market: A Factbook

by Alison Pennington and Jim Stanford

While women have made some progress in closing the wage gap and other dimensions of gender inequality in Australia, they still face daunting and persistent barriers to their full participation and compensation in Australia’s economy.

That’s the conclusion from a new factbook on gender economic inequality in Australia, released by the Centre for Future Work to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March.

The factbook compiles evidence on over 60 different statistical indicators of gender inequality in Australia, organised into 18 different subject groupings. It paints a composite picture of how women are blocked from full participation in work and economic activity, experience greater precarity in employment, are paid less for their efforts, and experience other forms of exploitation (including violence and sexual assault in workplaces).

Some of its more startling findings include:

  • The true wage gap between women and men is much larger than often reported. The commonly-cited gender wage gap of 14% only applies to women working in full-time positions, and excludes bonuses and overtime payments. However, women have less access to full-time jobs, and receive far less bonus and supplementary income than men. The gender gap in total wage income is 32% – more than twice as wide.
  • Women are much more subject to precarious and insecure work arrangements than men. They are far more likely to be employed in part-time, casual, and temporary positions than men. Only 43% of employed Australian women work in a traditional full-time permanent job with normal entitlements (such as paid sick leave, holidays, and superannuation). The rest all experience one or more dimensions of precarity in their jobs. That compares to 57% of men in permanent full-time jobs with entitlements.
  • Women who undertake self-employment are especially vulnerable. The report shows that 47% of self-employed women are in vulnerable business positions: working part-time, and working either without incorporation or without any other employees (or both). That compares to 19.% of self-employed men.
  • Women are now more likely to be members of a union than men, and make up more than half of union members. Women who are in a union earn 29% more per week than women who are not in a union. For part-time workers, the union advantage is even bigger: women union members earn 44% more than non-members

“The statistical evidence is overwhelming that women are a long way from achieving equality in Australia’s workplaces,” said Alison Pennington, Senior Economist at the Centre for Future Work and co-author of the factbook.

“These systemic and structural barriers to full participation and fair compensation are holding Australian women back and our economy is weaker for it.

“Australian women need to be able to work and earn to their full potential. This requires powerful measures to support women workers in all aspects of their lives; from quality affordable childcare to much stronger protections against violence and sexual harassment.”

Full report