LAUNCH OF CLOSING THE GENDER PAY GAP REPORT

JULIE COLLINS MP.
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4 weeks ago
LAUNCH OF CLOSING THE GENDER PAY GAP REPORT
JULIE COLLINS MP
Thank you for that introduction Sue.
 
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past, present and future.
 
I would also like to acknowledge:
  • PwC – Sue Horlin, Marty Jovic and Sharon Ponniah
  • Linda White – Chair of the Chifley Research Centre
  • Brett Gale – Executive Director of the Chifley Research Centre
  • Professor Rae Cooper – University of Sydney
 
It’s great to be here in Sydney today to launch the Chifley Research Centre’s Closing the Gender Pay Gap report.

Chifley Research Centre report

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the work that is undertaken by the Chifley Research Centre.

The Chifley Research Centre’s report – Closing the Gender Pay Gap - will certainly provide an opportunity for policy debate about solutions that go towards achieving gender equality.

The involvement of Price Waterhouse Cooper around the economics and evidence of this policy area should be commended.

So too, the continual drive from the Chifley Research Centre to put forward solutions that go towards the values of making Australia a fairer and more progressive nation – this includes ways to close the gender pay gap.

Thank you all for your valuable contributions.

Australia’s history

We’ve been talking about Australia’s gender pay gap for decades.

It’s an important topic given the serious economic impact it continues to have on women.

For more than 50 years Australians have protested, campaigned and lobbied for gender equality.

During the 50s and 60s Australian women and men participated in protests calling on the Government to ratify the Equal Remuneration Convention so there would be more equal wages between men and women.

So equal pay was certainly on the political agenda but it wasn’t until 1969 that there was real progress made.

And it was the trade union movement that was a key driver of change around the gender pay issue.

Progress was made in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 1969 but further change of course also occurred when Gough Whitlam was elected.

In 1972, the Commission handed down a decision that women and men who undertook “similar work that had similar value” were eligible for the same rate of pay.

And in 1973 the Commission granted an equal minimum wage to all Australians, regardless of their gender.

So, fast forward to 2019 – have things improved?

Despite all of this activism and the decisions made at that time we still have gender inequality.

The question everyone should be asking is why, in 2019, are women doing the same work as men being paid less?

Australia’s gender pay gap
 
The gender pay gap has essentially not moved in the last 20 years.
 
On average, over this time, the gender pay gap sits at 16 per cent.
 
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, between 1998 and 2018, the gender pay gap has hovered between 14.1 and 18.5 per cent.
 
And yesterday’s ABS data shows that the gender pay gap remains static at 14 per cent.
 
It was at its highest in November 2014 at 18.5 per cent - coinciding with the mining boom.
 
  • In dollar terms women are still earning on average, $239.80 per week less than men.
 
  • By state and territory – lowest in Victoria (9.3%) and highest in Western Australia (23.1%).
  • By industry – lowest in public administration and safety (5.1%) – highest in financial and insurance services (26.9%).
 
  • By age - The average gender pay gap between women and men working full-time increases with age up to the mid-30s before decreasing slightly to 15.6% in favour of men in the mid-40s. The average gender pay gap then increases again to 17.7% for the 55 years and over age group.
 
With statistics like this it is vital that we, as policy makers, focus a strong lens on enhancing the economic and financial security of women.
 
It is something Labor started when it was in Government and it must become a priority for the Morrison Government.
 
21st Century
 
So why do we still have a gender pay gap?
 
Clearly, we still have too many barriers for women in the workplace.
 
Inflexible working hours, caring responsibilities and the fact that women are still predominately employed in low-paid jobs – for example, women working in the aged care sector.
 
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency the following factors also count:
  • Discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions; and
  • Women’s greater time out of the workforce impacting on career progression and opportunities – especially in management and senior roles.
 
What makes a difference?

There’s no doubt Government intervention can be a lever of change.

Whether that is through legislative measures or through industrial relation mechanisms, governments have a genuine role to play when it comes to driving policy that can go towards closing the gender pay gap.

An example was Labor’s commitment to support the Social and Community Services – or SACS equal pay case.

The Australian Services Union lodged an equal pay case with Fair Work Australia in 2010.

And by February 2012 the case resulted in real wage increases between 23 and 45 per cent over eight years for 150,000 of Australia’s lowest paid workers.

120,000 of these workers were women.

The equal pay case was also supported by a $3 billion investment by a Labor Government.

The equal pay case was not only a historic event it was also life-changing for many working in social and community services.

Finally, there was recognition of equal pay for work of equal value.  This was a great example about initiatives that not only went towards closing the gender pay gap but also improving the financial security of women through attaining gender equality.

The Gillard Government and I, as the Minister for the Status of Women, also delivered legislation that recognised that closing the gender pay gap would be central to achieving equality.

This legislative reform was the introduction of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012.

This legislation allowed for a change in the name of the Act to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.

Essentially, this Bill was about ensuring there was a genuine and sustained progress towards gender equality in the workplace.

The legislation was expanded to include men, as well as women, particularly in relation to caring responsibilities.

This legislation also saw an important name change for the primary agency from the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

There was also significant reform with the introduction of a new regime for the reporting and monitoring of gender equality in the workplace.

There was an immense amount of consultation with the sector.

An exposure draft began consultation with the sector and negotiations continued with the union movement, women’s groups and of course, business.

There was a balance that needed to be reached – a need for change to be driven through business – while at the same time not increasing the regulatory burden.

The negotiations were tough at times but to everyone’s credit agreement was finally reached by all parties.

For the first time, this legislation ensured that from 1 April, 2013 - businesses with more than 100 employees would be required to prepare and lodge a report containing information relating to gender quality indicators.

Also, it became law that these public reports had to be signed off by an employer’s chief executive officer – this ensured that management, at the highest level, engaged in the issues of gender equality.

These reports are vitally important to gain an understanding of the state of the gender pay gap.

At the time there was a lot of angst about business reporting against gender indicators.

But, given Australia now provides some of the best gender reporting across the globe I think we can say this was a successful policy initiative to narrow the gender pay gap.

Since 2012

That legislation was passed almost seven years ago.

Has it made a difference?

Well, interestingly the Morrison Government has tried to take credit for closing the gender pay gap.

The Prime Minister said last year that:
Under Labor, the gender pay gap increased from 15.5% to 17.2%. Under our Government it has fallen to 14.5% and heading in right direction.

Sadly for the Prime Minister, the ABC Fact Check’s verdict was that his claim was ‘overreach’.

And why?

The Prime Minister was trying to hoodwink everyone that the Liberal Government has done something.

However, listening to the experts – they say a growing economy would correspond with a larger gender pay gap – as already mentioned – the mining boom when men’s wages increased faster when compared to women’s.

The experts also said the current government could not claim credit for decreasing the gender pay gap – and that the only government measure that may be responsible for narrowing the gap was policy legislated by the former Labor Government.

Disappointingly, nothing has happened in the past six years to help close the gender pay gap.

Taking credit and tweeting about the gender pay gap is a little disingenuous from the Prime Minister because it is evident successive Liberal Governments haven’t undertaken any reform at all.

We shouldn’t be surprised about Prime Minister Morrison’s comments.

He also said this year:

"We want to see women rise. But we don't want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse”.

Difficult to narrow the gender pay gap when you have views of this nature.

But for all of the comments and the political spin the Prime Minister and Treasurer tell you about Australians benefiting from economic growth this is not true for some people – especially women.

Professor of gender and employment relations, Marian Baird, from the University of Sydney Business School summed this very point up last year when she said:

“We've got economic growth and clearly it is not being experienced in the same way by men and women. Women are not benefitting from it in the same way and are disproportionately unlikely to get pay rises, and when it comes to penalty rates, get a pay cut."

There is a clear message here – the Morrison Government must put forward a genuine reform agenda to close the gender pay gap.

This must mean turbocharging the pact between Government and business to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

Chifley Research Centre Report
 
It is important to continue to shine a spotlight on gender equality in the workplace.
 
It is therefore pleasing to see that research continues on how best to close the gender pay gap.
 
The Chifley Research Centre’s report focuses on four key areas. They include:
  • Increasing pay transparency;
  • Creating good quality and economically secure jobs in female dominated industries;
  • Addressing the value of what is typically thought to be women’s work; and
  • Setting ambitious targets and timeframes to accelerate change.
The report also reminds us that time is of the essence.
 
Projecting it will take 50 years to close the gap and achieve gender equality is, as the report suggests, unacceptable.
 
And when you look at the inaction successive Liberal Governments have done to close the gender gap over the past six years – you start to think that’s a significant amount of time to sit idle – doing nothing.
 
The messages and initiatives included in this report require serious consideration and it is pleasing to see that some of the proposed policy areas build on a foundation of reform, that I can confidently say, was established by a Labor Government.
 
Conclusion

We all know there shouldn’t be any difference in pay because of your gender.

But the reality is there are still women who come up against barriers that prevent them from earning the same as their male colleagues.

For more than 50 years the gender pay gap has been on the minds of many Australians.

Next week, Unequal Pay Day – 28 August, marks the 59 additional days from the end of the financial year that women must work, on average, to earn the same as men.

This is when we will get the latest data released and we know that the projected further 50 years needed to close the gender pay gap in Australia is unacceptable.

Across the world it is a common feature that gender pay gaps, as the Workplace Gender Equality Agency states, are in favour of men.

We know more work needs to be done.

It gives me great pleasure to now launch the Chifley Research Centre’s gender pay report.

I hope it is a catalyst for change to ensure that we continue to close the pay gap with the aim of achieving gender equality.

Thank you for inviting me here today.

ENDS
Women