Happy IWD! Women Are Still Earning Significantly Less Than Men in 2023

A figure of a man and a woman stand on piles of coins with the man's being a lot higher to symbolise the gender pay gap.

Happy International Women’s Day! If you’re not already full of all the empowerment and liberation that a cupcake can contain, here are some more tasty morsels for you: Australian women earn $1.01 million less than men over the course of their working lives.

According to new research released today by the Australia Insitute’s Centre for Future Work, women are collectively losing roughly $3 billion per week, thanks to the gender pay gap.

This is in spite of the gender pay gap having narrowed by 0.8% last year, down to 13.3%, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Those figures found that women were taking home an average of $255 less per week than their male counterparts. It’s also just 0.1% better than where we were pre-pandemic, during which the gap increased.

By the time women reach retirement, they will have accumulated $136,000 less than men in superannuation, leaving them with roughly $393,676 or $151,000 less than what is considered necessary for a ‘comfortable retirement’.

While the gender pay gap has gotten smaller, at the current rate it’s moving, it will take another three decades before wage parity is reached. By that point, 60% of women currently working will have retired.

Although the gender pay gap is not a phenomenon exclusive to Australia, it’s an area that we significantly fall behind on. The World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Australia 42nd in the world on gender equality. Additionally, the gender pay gap here is more than double what it is in New Zealand.

What Causes the Gender Pay Gap?

The gender pay gap isn’t simply caused by companies paying women less than men for doing the same job – that’s been illegal since 1973.

The gender pay gap is an average difference in earnings caused by a range of factors. These include women not being selected for wage increases or being promoted to more senior positions, or because they work in industries where wages are typically lower.

Many of these poor employment decisions centre around childcare and the expectation that women will be unable or unwilling to fulfil certain roles because of parental responsibilities – which is not something we expect of men. This is alongside the cultural and social conditioning that we have all grown up in that equates men with leaders and women with carers. Hence why they are not often the first pick for top-level jobs.

According to the Australia Institute’s report, men have higher average salaries than women in a startling 95% of all occupations. This includes those professions that are heavily female-dominant.

For example, 99% of midwives are women, and yet they earn an average of 19% less than the men in that profession. This is because those males are in more senior positions.

There are 80 occupations in which men make up 80% or more of the workforce that have an average salary above $100,000. So, what is the number of occupations with an average salary of $100K and an 80% majority of women? Exactly zero. None.

Collectively, women in Australia work seven weeks of the year unpaid when compared to men. The Australian College of Nursing (ACN), an industry body representing a profession that is predominantly female, has said the current statistics are “disappointing”.

“Gender pay gaps are a reflection of the way we value women’s and men’s contributions in the workforce,” ACN’s CEO and Adjunct Professor, Kylie Ward, said in a statement.

“We need to embrace flexibility and different models of working so women can thrive in the workforce and ensure that measures are taken sooner rather than later to make the necessary changes so that we do not fail another generation of women.”

Related: Why Do We Still Need Feminism? A Brief History of the Women’s Rights Movement in Australia

Related: Here’s How Men Can Speak Up on International Women’s Day

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