Gender pay gap

Image of four small figures standing on piles of coins. The white male figure is standing on the tallest pile of coins, while an Asian male, white woman and brown woman are each standing on smaller piles of coins

Progress to reduce the gender pay gap has been far too slow; in Australia the gender pay gap is now increasing. The disparity between men’s and women’s pay continues to underpin the power imbalance that defines the world’s working populations and will hinder global efforts to recover economies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite Australian legislation enshrining equal pay for equal work in 1972, nearly 50 years later the average Australian woman still has to work an extra 61 days a year to earn the same pay as the average man.

In 2022, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency confirmed that the national gender pay gap in ordinary weekly wages for full time workers in Australia increased from the previous year and is now 14.1 per cent. This means women earn on average $263.90 a week less than men. If you add bonuses, overtime and other remuneration that increases to 22.8% for full-time workers and over 30% for all workers including part-time and casual.

This persistent inequality has important consequences. It leaves women economically precarious, it creates significant gaps in retirement savings, and exacerbates the poor financial outcomes that women face in both the short and long term. As well as the negative impacts on individual women, by devaluing the work of one gender, Australian society and the Australian economy are missing out on the full impact of what women and men can contribute.

Gendered preferences in working patterns and caring responsibilities that are often used to explain, and justify, the gender pay gap are driven by strong societal norms and job segmentation. This means the ‘choices’ women make in their careers and the types of industries in which they work, are inherently constrained.

To improve gender equality in Australia, a multifaceted approach is needed. This includes a focus on improving parental leave (particularly for men), affordable childcare, valuing women’s work and work that is stereotypically done by women, addressing occupational segregation, and increasing pay transparency.

Bridging the gap? An analysis of gender pay gap reporting in six countries

In 2021 GIWL ANU partnered with our sister institute at King’s College London on a major international report on gender pay gap reporting.

Bridging the gap? An analysis of gender pay gap reporting in six countries brings together research on six country case studies in three continents to explore how gender pay gap reporting systems compare on the ground.

GIWL ANU led the Australian case study and produced a companion report focusing on Australia's system - Gender pay gap reporting in Australia --Time for an upgrade

Looking at reporting systems in the UK, Australia, France, Spain, Sweden and South Africa, the report considers how the different legislation plays out in practice. Does it seem to work? Are employers being spurred into action? Are there hidden pitfalls or loopholes in the current systems that are hindering their progress? This research asks stakeholders from government officials, employers, trade unionists and gender equality advocates about the various frameworks to explore what is effective and how these systems could be improved.

GIWL presented a panel discussion which brought together scholars and activists from around the world to discuss developments in gender pay gap reporting. The expert panel reflected on recommendations from the GIWL ANU/KCL reports, and discussed how they are pushing for change in their countries.

GIWL advocated for legislative change based on international evidence in a submission to the Prime Minister and Cabinet review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 and is pleased to see all GIWL recommendations reflected in the review findings that have now been approved for introduction to Parliament.

GIWL is proud to be partnering with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to undertake further work on this important area.

Read more about GIWL's work on the gender pay gap:

  • Reporting - key to addressing gender pay gap The Diversity Council of Australia looks at key takeaways from our Bridging the gap report.
  • Australia has ranked last in an international gender pay gap study - here are 3 ways to do better Article in The Conversation outlining key actions for Australia to improve its gender pay gap reporting.
  • Watch the GIWL panel discussion about gender pay gap reporting

Updated:  10 November 2022/Responsible Officer:  Institute Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications