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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 21 March 2017) . . Page.. 791 ..

The gender pay gap is the difference between men’s and women’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings, which are expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency calculates the national agenda pay gap using ABS data. The most recent findings tell us that the current gender pay gap is sitting at 16 per cent nationally. Before we get too excited about this reduction from 17.2 per cent in 2015, it is important to note that it has hovered between 15 and 19 per cent for roughly the past 20 years. This means that reform in this area is slow, and achieving gender equality requires sustained commitment and leadership.

Here in the ACT we do better. Our gender pay gap is lower, at 11.5 per cent, and even lower in the ACT public service, at 3.6 per cent. When compared nationally, we do well also, sitting second only to South Australia, who recorded an 11.2 per cent pay gap. The ACT government will continue to support women and girls in our community, and it is my hope that we can get there sooner if we all work together to be advocates and leaders.

MS CODY: Minister, what other ways are women disadvantaged through their jobs?

MS BERRY: Unfortunately, we know that there are many ways that women are disadvantaged throughout their working lives. They will often retire with less superannuation and fewer life savings and are less likely to be home owners than their male counterparts.

We also know that gender bias impacts more than just measured pay gaps and that women are often primary care givers in the home, and more often in part-time or casualised work. Taking maternity leave also provides particular challenges, particularly when returning to the workforce.

Perhaps one of the biggest risks for working women right now is the removal of penalty rates for weekend work. Female workers will suffer most from the recent decision by the Fair Work Commission to cut weekend penalty rates. A recent analysis by the Australia Institute Centre for Future Work, drawing on ABS data, concludes that 60 per cent of Sunday workers in retail and 54 per cent in hospitality are women.

Women are more likely to be employed in these low wage sectors, usually as part-time workers. These factors contribute to the gap in earnings between men and women. This modelling, of course, flies in the face of the recent comments by the Australian industry body who claimed on International Women’s Day that the penalty rate cut would, in fact, benefit women. Yes, benefit women: by lessening the problem of unemployment. So we are told here that if you reduce take home pay for this working cohort, the majority of whom are low paid women already, you will in fact benefit women because you can offer them more lower paid work. I do not buy that argument.

MS ORR: Minister, what can governments do to support women in their lives to help create more equal outcomes?

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