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Gender pay gap remains ‘significant and persistent’

5 minute read

The ABS has updated its gender equality indicators.

The difference in full time earnings between males and females reached 14.1 per cent in May, according to the latest gender indicators from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

While a marginal improvement on the 14.2 per cent difference reported by the ABS a year earlier, the gender pay gap has widened since November 2021, when it sat at 13.8 per cent. 

“The general trend is clear; the gap remains significant and persistent, with little progress made over the last three years,” commented KPMG senior economist Sarah Hunter.


Dr Hunter noted that the gap has persisted despite similar education levels between genders.

“Women and men are now generally as well qualified as each other, with 62 percent of women and 62.6 percent of men aged 15-74 (2021 data) holding at least one non-school qualification,” she said.

“In terms of university education, women are now significantly better qualified, with 34.2 percent of women aged 51-74 holding a university degree, against 28.3 percent of men. This outperformance spreads right across the generations.”

Commenting on the figures, ASPL Group CEO Kris Grant stated that, in general, employers needed to be more rigorous about introducing measures to bring about wage equality.

“The gender pay has been around for so long that to get male and female wages on par, employers would have to pay a lot more to their female workers, and many are reluctant to do that. But that’s what needs to be done to level up male and female wages,” she said.

“Conducting a comprehensive gender pay audit should be a key priority for employers as it allows organisations to identify the extent of the problem and take action to solve it. Pay audits result in a greater understanding of recruitment and remuneration biases, which lead to the gender pay gap and solutions can then be developed.”

ASPL also suggested that the wage gap was behind the difference in superannuation levels, with the ABS indicators showing a median balance of $168,000 for females and $208,200 for males in the 2019-20 financial year.

“When employers pay less to women than men, they are sending the signal that women are less valuable in the workplace than men. This needs to be corrected with urgency,” Ms Grant said.

A recent report from KPMG pointed to gender discrimination as the single biggest factor in explaining the pay gap, followed closely by caring and family responsibilities along with the types of jobs and sectors that women disproportionately work in.

Dr Hunter said that this was backed up by the ABS data, as 88 percent of primary carer parental leave in the private sector is taken by women and the participation rate of adult women in the labour force (62.2 percent) continues to lag behind men (70.8 percent).

“As KPMG has previously highlighted and is proposing at the upcoming Jobs Summit, women have the skills, ability and capacity to increase their participation in the economy,” said Dr Hunter.

“Tackling the barriers to this, in particular access to childcare, the social norms around parental leave and caring responsibilities, and the provision of a safe workplace will reap substantial economic and social dividends for the country.”

The latest Financy Women’s Index revealed that the timeframe to equality in the gender pay gap widened to 23.4 years in the June quarter.

Jon Bragg

Jon Bragg

Jon Bragg is a journalist for Momentum Media's Investor Daily, nestegg and ifa. He enjoys writing about a wide variety of financial topics and issues and exploring the many implications they have on all aspects of life.