Australian women earn 87 cents to every man's dollar

The median full-time working woman in Australia earns 87 cents to every man's dollar, new OECD research shows.

Australia is a "mid-range performer" across most gender equality measures, said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle.

The report, which examines gender imbalances among OECD countries, recommends Australia move to plug the gender wage gap by addressing the core causes such as women's higher likelihood of interrupting their careers for child-rearing, and employer discrimination.

The report said Australia's gender pay gap of 87 cents to every man's dollar, was slightly above the OECD average of 85.7 cents to the dollar.

Target: 25 per cent by 2025

In November 2014, G20 leaders committed to reduce the global gender labour force participation gap by 25 per cent by 2025. The aim is to bring more than 100 million women into the labour force, boost global growth and reduce poverty and inequality.

Australia has a long way to go on gender equality. The report said the local public and private sector should strengthen policies that make it easier for both mothers and fathers to work. These include longer paid parental leave, affordable childcare and out-of-school hours care and tax incentives.

Although young women, on average, have more years of schooling than young men, women are less likely to have paid work. Gaps widen with age, as motherhood typically has negative effects on women's pay and career advancement.

Women are also less likely to be entrepreneurs, and are under-represented in private and public leadership, it found.

Gender segregation

Young women in Australia now make up 58.7 per cent of all graduates from undergraduate degree programs - a share slightly above the OECD average.

"Despite this strong educational performance, women are less likely than men to engage in paid work and continue to earn less," the report said.

"Although Australian women are more likely than men to go to university, women are much less likely to study, and later work in, the lucrative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields," it said.

Globally women are much more highly concentrated in service jobs, which tend to pay less than more technical roles. Only 8.7 per cent of women in Australia work in industry, compared to 30.9 per cent of men.

Childcare barrier

The report found women's disproportionate responsibility to provide unpaid childcare is a major barrier to advancing their careers.

Australian children are less likely than children in many other OECD countries to participate in formal childcare or pre-school. This limits the extent to which Australian mothers engage in paid work, the report said.

"While not as expensive as in some other English-speaking countries, childcare costs in Australia are relatively high," it said.

The net cost of childcare for a two-child dual-earner Australian family on moderate earnings equals around 20 per cent of disposable family income, compared to 13 per cent on average across the OECD.

Growth opportunity

Chief Executive Women President Kathryn Fagg said the report had identified "real opportunities for growing Australia's GDP through increasing female workforce participation".

OECD chief of staff, and G20 Sherpa, Gabriela Ramos said, "the pursuit of gender equality must be a priority to achieve sustainable, inclusive growth for the benefit of every citizen".

A number of other reports have identified similar gender pay gaps.

Australia's Workplace Gender Equality Agency, which covers more than 12,000 employers and 4 million employees across Australia, found working women earn almost $27,000 less than a man, and women in the c-suite - from CEOs to CFOs - earn almost $100,000 less than their male counterparts.

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The story Australian women earn 87 cents to every man's dollar first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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