For comparison purposes, August 28 marked the date which commemorates Equal Pay Day, where a total of 59 more days would constitute how many more days from the start of the current financial year that women would have to work in order to find their pay being on an equal footing with that of their male colleagues and counterparts.
A statistical reflection of the disparity of pay between women and men, as pointed out by the Equal Pay Day Alliance (EPDA) and citing data calculated annually by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) and quoting a series of data presented by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), presents some very sobering facts for the 2020 edition of Equal Pay Day:
- The national gender pay gap is 14%.
- On average, women working full-time earned $1,558.40 while men working full-time earned $1,812.00.
- Full-time average weekly earnings difference between women and men is $253.60.
And just some of the institutionalised factors, those dictated by the reality of our society and otherwise, do make suggestions which bring it all into focus:
- discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions
- women and men working in different industries and different jobs, with female-dominated industries attracting lower wages
- women’s disproportionate share of unpaid caring and domestic work
- lack of workforce flexibility to accommodate caring and other responsibilities, especially in senior roles
- and women’s greater time out of the workforce impacting career progression and opportunities.
The state of the COVID-19 pandemic is only making the gulf of disparity even worse at present. At least parity has reigned in Australia’s unemployment rate up to the month of July sitting at 7.5 per cent, as both men and women have incurred unemployment at that very exact rate for each gender. And as such, the actual number of women being unemployed exists at its highest rate in the nation’s history – and it has even doubled since last December.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has also championed the day not just to talk up the disparities of the present, but how damaging the future for women in the workforce may potentially become.
The ACTU’s concerns naturally address any of the above statistics and trends, but also go on to attack insecure work in the way of casualisation, lack of paid pandemic leave, how women in traditionally female-dominated areas such as healthcare and early childhood education are underpaid by the nature of their awards, and the rates of participation of the Morrison government’s early superannuation withdrawal scheme.
“The refusal of the Morrison Government to address insecure work which disproportionately effects women has left a third of the workforce without sick leave during a pandemic and means that women who are returning to work are returning to jobs which are lower paid and more insecure,” Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president, said on Friday.
“[And] the overwhelmingly female workforces in aged care and early childhood education and care are systemically underpaid and deal with extreme levels of insecure work. Women in the community sector are facing funding shortfalls which will undermine equal pay,” O’Neil added.
But the vicious cycle, according to O’Neil and the ACTU, does not end there.
Insofar as the withdrawal of superannuation has happened, over 1.3 million women have accessed their funds early in order to pay bills and – in the case of unemployed and under-employed women – fill the gaps in the commitments of their daily lives.
While this trend has occurred at a higher rate than that of men – and some would contend at a ratio close to two-to-one – in addition to those who have taken advantage of both available windows to withdraw totals of $20,000, more than 300,000 women have completely emptied their superannuation accounts.
And of that, 80 per cent of those, said O’Neil, are 35 years old or younger.
And in that demographic of being female and under 35, she added, members of that group may very well be $95,000 worse off in retirement once fees are taken into account.
“It is essential that the recovery from this crisis address the long-standing issues which have reduced the pay and retirement income of women,” said O’Neil.
O’Neil also implores the Morrison government to examine the ACTU’s National Economic Reconstruction Plan (NERP) as a foundation not just to stimulate the economy in the way of general post-pandemic recovery, but also provide a backdrop towards addressing the disparities women face in employment and wage equality issues.
“Addressing equal pay requires investment in secure jobs, and improving women’s legal rights to win equal pay,” said O’Neil.
Also by William Olson:
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