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Gender pay gap: Australia ranked dismally in new international report

Australia has finished equal last in one area compared to five other countries in a major study that looked at people’s pay packets. According to a new major international report, Australia has finished identical last in a ranking of the gender pay gap across six countries.

The report, published by King’s College London with help from researchers at The Australian National University, ranked Australia equal last alongside the UK across various gender pay gap reporting systems.

The researchers evaluated and ranked Australia, France, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the UK across 11 women’s pay equality indicators.

Spain came in first with a score of 8.5 out of 11, followed by France on 8.
Australia’s score was 4 out of 11.

According to the report, while Australia has good upward accountability and sufficient government support for gender-equal pay, a lack of action plans and good ambitions to address the gender pay gap significantly pulled down the nation’s story.

Despite being an early world leader in legislating gender equality, researchers said the real, meaningful change was lacking in Australia.

“After nearly four decades of gender equality reporting in Australia, many organizations have gender equality policies in place, but evidence suggests that many policies are ineffective,” the report reads.

“The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 is essential for equipping advocates and activists with evidence of gender inequality, without which acknowledgment of the problem would be limited.“However, the legislation is not sufficient to achieve significant change due to the absence of any mandate for positive action.”

In Australia, the gender pay gap for full-time employees sits at 14.2 percent.

Women’s average weekly full-time earnings are $1575 compared to men’s average weekly earnings of $1837.

The ANU researchers authored a companion report outlining policy solutions they say would “unleash the full potential” of Australia’s gender pay gap reporting legislation. “Australia has been among the world leaders introducing such legislation,” report co-author Miriam Glennie said. “Australia has a comprehensive, detailed, and functioning reporting system. The process is there. But if the legislation is a machine, it is running on power saver mode.”

According to the ANU researchers, fundamental changes that should occur include:
  • Publishing the gender pay gaps of individual organizations
  • Nominating minimum performance standards that require organizations to reduce their gender pay gap
  • Using sanctions in the Workplace Gender Equality Act against organizations that don’t comply with or meet minimum standards

“By pulling a small number of levers, Australia has a chance to ramp up progress on reducing the pay gap in the short to medium term,” Dr. Glennie said.

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