Equal pay in Australia – are you working for free?

Published: 31/08/2021
Category: Workers rights Working women
Published: 31/08/2021
Category: Workers rights Working women

Today is Equal Pay Day – a day to raise awareness of the gender pay gap in Australia.

It falls today because it’s 61 days since the end of the previous financial year and unbelievably, that’s how many additional days women must work to earn the same pay as men.

Gender Pay Gap Facts
  • The national gender pay gap is 14.2%.

  • On average, women working full-time earned $1,575.50 while men working full-time earned $1837.00.

  • Full-time average weekly earnings difference between women and men is $261.50.

That’s right. Women in Australia have effectively been working for free for 61 days when compared to the earnings of men.

Each year this national pay gap is calculated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) using the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ labour force data.

According to their analysis, not only does a significant pay gap still exist, but it’s also gotten worse over the last year.

WGEA calculated that in 2021, there was a rise of 0.8 percentage points bringing Australia’s national gender pay gap to 14.2 per cent. Of course, if the reduced number of hours that women work due to caring responsibilities is included in the calculation, the gender pay gap is much higher – over 30 per cent.

In monetary terms, WGEA found that on average, women working full-time earned $1,575.50 while men working full-time earned $1837 per week. That’s on average $261.50 less in full-time average weekly earnings, just for being a woman.

This gap exists across all industries, even female dominated industries – despite the fact that women led the pandemic response as frontline workers in sectors such as healthcare, community and social services and education and retail.

What’s your pay gap?

This year’s theme for Equal Pay Day this year is ‘What’s your pay gap?’ A crucial step towards closing the gender pay gap is getting employers to measure the pay gap at their workplace and acting to address it.

Many employers don’t believe they have a gender pay gap, until they actually look at the data. That’s why it’s important that all employers conduct a gender pay audit to help identify and address discriminatory pay.

WGEA has developed the gender pay gap calculator to assist employers to identify and analyse the causes of gender pay gaps within their own organisation. 

Equal pay and your union

Equal pay for men and women isn’t just a matter of fairness, it’s a legal right thanks to the efforts of union members – members like Muriel Heagney, who led a 60-year campaign for equal pay for working women.

Australian Unions have a proud history of winning equal pay for women. In 1969 an Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) case at the Arbitration Commission won equal pay for women who did the same work as men.

In 1972, another ACTU case saw equal pay for comparable work – addressing the systematic sexist undervaluing of occupations predominantly made up of women. And in 1974, through the National Wage Case, unions helped women win equality in the national minimum wage.

Since then, Australian Unions have continued to make sure equal pay is not just a legal right, but the actual experience for women workers. If you need support to make equal pay a reality at your work, contact your union today.

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Equal pay in Australia – are you working for free?

Equal pay in Australia – are you working for free?