Standing up for Canberra

We Need to Close the Gender Pay Gap

On average one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner. And, at the current rate of progression, we won't achieve gender equality in parliament until 2046. The gender pay gap has been stagnant for two decades, and gender equality against many of the markers appears to have stalled in Australia.

Since the coalition government came to power in 2013, Australia has slipped from 19th to 46th place in the Global Gender Gap Report.

Despite all of the progress that's already been achieved, Australian women are still earning 14 per cent less than their male colleagues. According to the Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency, a man working full-time earns $26,527 more per year than a woman working full-time. We're not talking about pennies; we're talking about over $26,000 per year, on average, extra that a man is earning over a woman.

Part of the solution to closing the gender pay gap is to identify where it begins. In order to find out what we need to do in the future, we need to work out where the nub of the problem is—where it is germinated.

On average girls receive 11 per cent less pocket money than boys, according to the 2015 Australian Pocket Money Survey. I fail to understand how that can be. What is it? Are the parents paying less for the work that the girls do than the boys? It's kind of weird that there's such a difference there—11 per cent—in terms of pocket money.

The gender pay gap starts when we are children, and it follows us, as women, for our entire life.

This is absolutely outrageous.

There are so many women entering this workforce—73 per cent of them are graduates to be exact—and yet they're being paid 25 percent less than men. In 2016 almost 75 percent of university graduates of health were women, yet in 2018 it was reported that men in the healthcare industry are paid up to 25 per cent more than their female colleagues.

Women graduating with degrees in education also outnumber men—75 per cent of graduates are female, yet women are paid almost 12 per cent less than men in this industry.

How can this be happening? Does it begin with the in-built discrimination when we get pocket money? It continues in the workforce despite the fact that women outnumber men when it comes to university graduation.

It begins at a young age, continues into a woman's 20s and 30s and continues on until she retires—and I will come to that in a minute.

There is an abundance of educated women to choose from when it comes to industries that require a tertiary education. Over 91 percent of women aged 20 to 24 have attained year 12 qualifications or above, compared with 88 percent of men in the same age bracket. More women than men are tertiary educated and more women than men are year 12 educated, yet in the industries where women outnumber men, health and education, we're still being paid 25 per cent less than men.

There is something seriously wrong.

It begins, I'm concerned to say, in childhood, continues through tertiary education, continues through the workforce and continues in retirement.

Older single women are the fastest-growing group of people experiencing housing stress and homelessness in Australia. Women are retiring into poverty, and this trend is growing. Over 6,000 older women were homeless on the night of the 2016 census. That figure was up 31 percent from 2011. It's an alarming jump in just five years.

We need to keep having a conversation about older women and homelessness. The Equality Rights Alliance maintains we are facing a tsunami of homelessness among older women—300,000, 600,000 - that's what we're potentially looking at. These are women who are invariably divorced, they've brought up kids on their own, they earn modest incomes, they have very little super and they are in the private rental market. These are women staring down homelessness, staring down a bleak future, and unfortunately, from the trends that I've discussed today, it seems that in-built discrimination begins in childhood.