As Gender Pay Gap Widens, Women Fear They Will Be Left Behind After Covid

Not that we needed another reason to bemoan the global coronavirus pandemic, but news today that the gender pay gap has widened is certainly one of them. Reports from Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) which has subsequently declared August 31 “Equal Pay Day 2021”, revealed that Australia’s national gender pay gap has widened during the past six months of the pandemic. During this time, it’s increased 0.8 percentage points to 14.2 per cent. In light of this, women working full time are now taking home $265.50 a week less on average than their male counterparts. 

In 2021, such news is troubling, particularly when you consider the fact that women will need to work 61 extra days from the end of the financial year to achieve the same average annual pay as men. As Mama Mia reports, “Put simply, women would have to work 14 months of the year to earn the same as men. You’re probably not surprised, but you are right to be angry. After all, we’ve been working to close the gap for decades, and while it’s lower than its peak, this is still a backwards step that we can’t afford.”

Given these new revelations, it’s predicted that it will take close to 26 years to close the total remuneration gender pay gap. Equal Pay Day then, serves as an important reminder of the structural and cultural drivers that work against women’s equality in the workplace, factoring in everything from outright discrimination, to factors pertaining to family and care, interruptions in paid work, part-time employment and unpaid care and work, as well as industrial and occupational segregation. Despite decades-long campaigns and protests from women, attitudes have been slow to change and there remains much that needs to be done if women are to be considered equal to their male colleagues. 

Is Australia’s Gender Pay Gap Really Shrinking?

As well as the fact that women encounter more bias that makes it harder to climb the professional ladder, the pay gap continues to exist for women in leadership roles and, in many instances, is even more pronounced. It goes without saying that there needs to be an increase in the diversity of leadership roles in order to drive positive change within an organisation. As Mama Mia notes, evidence shows that “having more women in top positions has trickle down effects for the whole organisation – and bringing more women into the room can improve behaviours in male-dominated workplaces.” 

Currently, the data is yet to be attained on the diversity and pay gaps present for Aboriginal women, women of colour, LGBTQI and others who are more likely to be discriminated against simply due to their identity or gender. But many are right to assume that it’s likely a compounding effect. 

WGEA data shows that as a result of the pay gap, women retire with half the superannuation compared to men, and not surprisingly 40 per cent of single retired women live in poverty and 44 per cent of women with a partner must rely on their partner’s salary to support their retirement. Data obtained from WGEA also reveals that women’s average full-time wages are lower than men’s across every industry and occupation in Australia. Women working full-time earned on average $1575.50 in a week, while male full-time workers were paid $1837. On a per-hour comparison, men earned $2.20 more than women. Those industries with the largest pay gap include professional, scientific and technical services, which have a 25 per cent gap, and financial insurance services at 24 per cent. Healthcare has a gender pay gap of around 21 per cent. 

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