Perrottet Government’s policies are deliberately gendered

Women In Education: Education Quarterly, Issue 5 2023

One of the key findings of the Valuing the Teaching Profession inquiry was that the volume and complexity of teachers’ work has changed dramatically in the past two decades, yet teachers’ salaries have not increased compared with those of other professionals.

Research conducted by Professor John Buchanan (University of Sydney Business School), and submitted to the inquiry, found primary and secondary teachers have among the lowest incomes of all the major professions examined.

The effect of this disparity is the reduction in the attractiveness of the profession and was leading to worsening teacher shortages in NSW public schools. Significantly: “The earnings for female teachers compared to the average paid to all female professionals has fallen by 8 per cent in the last 30 years.”

Australian women are among the most highly educated and qualified in the world, however, Australia has one of the highest rates of occupational gender segregation in the world. It’s well known and documented that when an industry is considered “feminised”, the pay is lower.

This is exacerbated by the fact that unpaid care work is a significant part of Australian society and the economy. With the bulk of caring work done by women, and the prevailing assumption that teachers will undertake additional work without commensurate time or pay, is an extension of the “unpaid care economy” expectation and is unacceptable.

In male-dominated industries (such as engineering and construction) any inequity is obvious and easily identifiable, but in education the structural barriers are hidden in plain view. For example:

  • employment/financial insecurity affects women more than men
  • overwhelmingly women will work part time, affecting their lifetime earnings and superannuation balances
  • it is more difficult to obtain promotions positions and relieving in higher duties opportunities if you don’t work full time
  • accessing permanency can take longer for women, etc. In NSW, one third of employed women work in education and health-related industries.

The Perrottet Government has shown itself unwilling to address the unsustainable workloads and uncompetitive salaries of teachers.

There can be no other conclusion: the current public sector wages cap, perpetuation of insecure employment and the denigration of the teaching profession is deliberately gendered.

The fact that the Perrottet Government, its Minister and Department of Education have dismissed outright every approach and solution presented by Federation on these matters cannot be ignored.

Clearly, this Government has to go and your vote is vital to the future of public education.

Union women, union strong!