Pay gap between men and women widens – equal pay a myth

Gender equality in the workplace is even further off in 2010 than in 2009, with the wage gap widening over the last 12 months and a new study showing Australians are largely pessimistic about women ever receiving equal pay.

Pay GapAccording to research conducted by the Diversity Council Australia and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace agency (EOWA), most Australians still cling to the notion that equal pay means equal pay for the doing the same job rather than work of equal value, which devalues work done in traditionally female dominated areas such as nursing and teaching. On a brighter note, most Australians believe that steps should be taken to close the pay gap between men and women.

The findings were contained in research conducted for Diversity Council Australia and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace agency (EOWA) and released today.

The Acting Director of Research at Diversity Council Australia, Lisa Annese said that the findings showed the importance of continuing the national debate about pay equity and what it really means.

“The findings show that around two thirds (64 per cent) of Australians wrongly think that pay equity means equal pay for men and women who are doing the same job. Just 14 per cent of people agreed with the correct idea that pay equity means equal pay for men and women doing different but equivalent jobs.

“We need to be focusing our efforts on achieving pay equity for women who are doing work of equal value to men, not necessarily the exact same job,” Ms Annese said.

“The fact is that the gap between male and female average full-time weekly earnings
does exist and is currently almost 18 per cent,“ Ms Annese said.

Acting EOWA Director Mairi Steele encouraged Australian businesses to use Equal Pay Day on September 4 to focus on the gender pay gap in their organisation.

“Equal Pay Day marks the 66 extra days – three days more than 2009 – that women have to work after the end of the financial year to earn the same as men. This is because Australian woman on average still earn 18% less than men.”

  • “Different but equivalent” sounds like moving the goal posts to me.

  • Pay equity as described by Ms. Annese is a term that the public does not really understand, as they relate the equal pay issue to similar jobs in related areas. The idea that different work should be valued more equally is based on a sense of fairness, but this is one case where the market and not legislators should decide. Sure, nursing and teaching could be better paid, and this would close the 18% gap, but given these are largely publicly funded areas the issue then comes back to us taxpayers to upscale our valuation of these professions and be willing to pay a lot more, whilst keeping ‘male-dominated’ professions the same (and having less resources for other policy areas). As a parent and dealing with mainly female primary school teachers and staff, I must say the argument to give them more deserved money is a weak one. The net community benefit argument is not there in my view, but happy to be proven wrong.

  • Jaye Radisich

    Gender pay equity, and gender equality more generally, is a real and ongoing issue in our community. It is essential that community leaders work towards redressing this disparity. In my experience, the level of awareness about this issue among Gen X-ers is quite high, but I get the sense that many Gen-Yers, especially females, don’t think that there’s an issue and that there really aren’t any changes worth striving for. Thoughts?

  • Damien Williamson

    If the work is equivalent why would one go into a lower paid industry. The market can sort this one out, supply and demand not fairness.