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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 12 September 2017) . . Page.. 3574 ..

Gender pay gap

MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (4.36): Last week, 4 September was Equal Pay Day. This date marks the additional time from the end of the previous financial year that women must work to earn the same as men earn if they are also working. I would like to spend a few minutes today reflecting on the gender pay gap and why early childhood educators went on strike across the country last week.

Using average weekly earnings data released by the ABS, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency calculates the national gender pay gap to be currently 15.3 per cent. The national gender pay gap is the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time base salary earnings, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. It is a measure of women’s overall performance in the paid workforce. It does not compare equal, like-to-like roles. On average, men working full time earned $1,638.30 and women earned $1,387.10, which makes a difference of $251.20. That means that for every $100 a male typically earns, a female typically earns $84.70.

We know that the gender pay gap starts when women first enter the workforce and widens with age, peaking in their 40s and 50s. Many women do not work full time. They work part time at three times the rate of men, which further reduces their income and savings capacity. Women are also more likely to take time out of the workforce due to unpaid caring and domestic responsibilities. For every hour of unpaid work a man does, a woman performs an average of one hour and 46 minutes.

Over a lifetime of caring and working, women retire, on average, with just half the superannuation balance of men and have an average of 52.8 per cent less in savings than men. This is one of the reasons we are now seeing an ever-increasing cohort of older women at risk of homelessness.

We know that workforces that are generally feminised are the lower paid sectors. These are the sectors where caring is the main responsibility—sectors such as health, community care, disability care, aged care and early childhood care. There has been little improvement over time. The gender pay gap has hovered between 15 and 19 per cent over the last two decades.

Something clearly will have to shift before we see this change. There needs to be a cultural shift that values women’s work as much as men’s work and requires us to shift our thinking to realise that caring jobs are some of the most important jobs in our society. Without them, where would we be as a society? We need to see men doing more unpaid work so that women can have access to their fair share of paid work.

It is because of these inequities that I supported the workers from the early childhood sector who went on strike last week. They walked out at 3.20 pm because they said that was when they started working for free because of the low wages. It is no coincidence that 97 per cent of childcare staff are women. Early childhood educators are laying the foundation for our future society and they should be paid accordingly.

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