26 September 2023

Closing the gender pay gap: Election promises

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Paying workers in female-dominated industries more will help closed the gender pay gap. Madeline Hislop* evaluates Labor and The Greens’ plans if elected.

The Greens have announced a new plan to close the gender pay gap in Australia by paying workers in female dominated industries more.

The party is today releasing its policy to increase wages in industries like nursing, childcare, and education, which are generally low paid and dominated by women.

The policy involves above average annual pay increases to these industries over 10 years, to structurally force the gender pay gap to narrow.

Greens deputy leader and spokesperson on women, Senator Larissa Waters said on current trends, Australian women are still 26 years away from pay parity.

“The gender pay gap is a product of systemic and cultural factors like workplace discrimination, lack of workplace flexibility, the cost and availability of childcare, and impact of taking time out for caring work,” Senator Waters said.

“These are all things that can and must be changed.”

“But the gap is also driven by the fact sectors dominated by women, like teaching, childcare, and nursing, are still appallingly undervalued.

“We saw throughout the pandemic how critical these roles are and wages paid in these sectors need to reflect that.

“The Greens’ plan is simple: we will make sure women are paid more by paying them more.”

Waters said that by increasing wages in female dominated industries, the gender pay gap will close faster and there will also be a much-needed boost to women’s economic security.

She also said it will help to retain staff in care and education sectors.

“Higher wages in these sectors will also increase revenue by $3 billion over the forward estimates as we improve the shape of the economy,” she said.

Penny Allman-Payne, the Greens lead Senate candidate in Queensland said with her background in public school teaching, she has seen first-hand how governments have undervalued the work of educators.

“Everyone knows the critical role teachers and teacher aides play in our community.

“The work is demanding, complex and often emotionally draining, and it’s high time that pay packets reflected that,” Allman-Payne said.

The Greens’ announcement follows a pledge made by Labor at its campaign launch in Perth on Sunday, to make gender pay equity an objective of the Fair Work Act.

Labor says it will also increase the Fair Work Commission’s powers to order pay increases for workers in low paid, female-dominated industries, like aged care, childcare and disability care.

“We will set up expert panels on pay equity and the care and community sector to help improve pay and conditions for women in those sectors,” Anthony Albanese said on Sunday.

“It was care workers who kept us alive through the pandemic.

“Care workers are the arteries of our nation, our regions, our cities, our suburbs.

“We must give them the respect and the investment they deserve.

“Women workers have had a tough two years.

“And I want to tell you that we see you.

“We see the work you have done, both paid and unpaid.

“We appreciate it, and we value it.

“But we need to do more than simply thank and applaud you.”

In Australia, the gender pay gap currently sits at 13.8 per cent.

The pay gap is calculated by comparing the average weekly full-time earnings of men and women across all industries.

While Minister for Women Marise Payne recently claimed credit for narrowing the gender pay gap, experts say the core driver of the narrowing gender pay gap over the past decade can be attributed to measures introduced by the Gillard government in 2012, particularly the Workplace Gender Equality Act.

*Madeline Hislop is a journalist & editor of The Sporty Wrap, a weekly newsletter published by Women’s Agenda.

This article first appeared at womensagenda.com.au.

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