Take action on Equal Pay Day towards improving pay status

The national gender pay gap has risen 0.8 percentage points over the past six months, to 14.2 per cent. (Workplace Gender Equality Agency).

That means that Equal Pay Day 2021 will be on 31 August, marking the 61 extra days from the end of the previous financial year that women, on average, must work to earn the same annual pay as men.

The gender pay gap is different to equal pay. The gender pay gap refers to the difference between what men and women get paid, on average, across organisations, industries, and the workforce as a whole. It is a measure of women’s overall position in the paid workforce and does not compare like roles. Equal pay is the model of women and men being paid the same for performing the same role or different work of equal or comparable value.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency uses the average weekly earnings data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to calculate the national gender pay gap for full-time employees.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Mary Wooldridge said the increase in the gender pay gap was driven by a 1.8 per cent rise in men’s full-time wages compared to a 0.9 per cent rise in women’s wages. Ms Wooldridge said the Australian Bureau of Statistics data highlighted earnings growth in construction (an industry that employs more men and received considerable pandemic stimulus from the Federal Government) as an explanation for this.

It is increasingly clear that the COVID-19 crisis has had a disproportionate effect on women. All the evidence suggests that women’s long-term economic and financial security and workforce participation has been seriously jeopardised. Australia has one the highest rates of occupational gender segregation in the world and it’s well known that when an industry is considered “feminised” the pay is lower.

As Ms Wooldridge said: “The work of Australian women deserves to be equally and fairly valued in our workplaces as a basic principle.”

“The gender pay gap signifies that the work of women is still not treated as being of equal value to that of men. As the 2021 Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre-WGEA research report reveals, the sobering reality is that, on current trends, it will take 26 years to close the total remuneration gender pay gap,” she said.

Gender pay audit on the teaching profession

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency is calling on employers to undertake gender pay audits because they help identify and address discriminatory pay and ensure that women are equally compensated and valued. Federation did exactly that in 2020, by commissioning the Valuing the teaching profession — an independent inquiry (the Gallop Inquiry). More than 70 per cent of the teaching workforce in NSW are women and the inquiry identified loud and clear that the work of teachers is undervalued and underpaid.

The previous review into the workload and salaries of teachers took place in 2004 and since that time the salaries and status of teachers have declined compared with other professions. Among the key recommendations of the Gallop inquiry is a salary increase of between 10 and 15 per cent, to recognise the increase in skills and responsibilities of teachers.

Act towards positive change

On Equal Pay Day, join the union’s campaign to shift the undervalued and underpaid status of the teaching profession. Talk to your colleagues about the findings and recommendations of the Valuing the teaching profession — an independent inquiry and ask them to show their support for action on the recommendations.