The gender pay gap has narrowed marginally, with Australian men twice as likely to earn high salaries of $120,000 more than women, who typically take home about $25,000 less annually, new data from the Workplace Gender Equality agency has revealed.
Australia’s latest report card uncovered mixed results across workplaces, with small improvements barely making a dent in longstanding and sizeable pay gaps, and decision-making structures, still dominated by men.
The WGEA analysis found men are twice as likely to be highly paid as women in Australia, with salaries of $120,000 or more. Conversely, women are significantly over-represented at the bottom level of all earners.
While the total gender pay gap between men and women fell slightly to 22.8%, down 0.5% since 2019-20, women still take home $25,792 less.
Across individual companies, 42% of organisations made some progress towards reducing the size of their pay gaps during 2020-21, yet, 37% reported an increased gap. The three industries with the biggest pay gaps were Construction (30.6%), Financial and Insurance Services (29.5%), and the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (24.7%) industries.
WGEA Director Mary Wooldridge said despite small improvements in the data, about 85% of employers still posted pay gaps in favour of men, with pay gaps remaining across every industry and occupation.
“From the very top-down, women are undervalued in Australian businesses and underrepresented where decisions are made,” she said.
The Agency’s eighth year of gender equality reporting found employers have increased their support across areas like flexible work, paid domestic violence leave and parental leave. However, a concerning absence of women’s voices in the workplace is visible.
“Our latest insights show this pattern clearly: 22% of all boards still don’t have a single woman in the room; and about three-quarters of all boards have a vast majority (over 60%) of men. Of those heavily male-dominated boards, only 12% have set a target to increase the representation of women, and on average that target is only 35% – not even what is generally considered a balanced board,” Ms Woolridge said.
The ACTU labelled the results disappointing, with six in 10 large Australian employers failing to bridge the gender pay gap, and 85% paying men more on average than women.
It called out the Morrison Government for, so far, resisting making any legislative or policy changes that could assist in closing the gender pay gap, including changes to the Fair Work Act to strengthen equal pay rights, and wage increases for Australia’s lowest paid frontline workers, the majority whom are women.
“This data is what we have come to expect under a government which refuses to lift a finger to close the gender pay gap,” ACTU President Michelle O’Neil said.
“This Government talks about its commitment to women, but when it comes to closing the gender pay gap, or acting on the recommendations of the Respect@Work report, or even ensuring gender equity in its own ranks, there is a complete lack of action.
“The legacy of this Government is stagnation in the fight for pay equity. It is clear that the Morrison Government likes to talk about listening to women but in practice does nothing to improve their pay.”