The current gender pay gap in Australia stands at 13.8%, a measly drop of 0.4 points over the past six months from 14.2%, according to the latest report published by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

The Australian government statutory agency calculates the national pay gap equates to a difference of $255 on average per week between the full-time salary of men and women. 

Across the country, South Australia has the smallest pay gap of $121 per week, while Western Australia has the biggest with a difference of $434 per week. 

Gender pay gaps across states and territories. Source: WGEA.

At 13.8%, the pay gap is now the second-lowest in the last two decades, a welcome sign, according to WGEA Director Hon Mary Woolridge, who also encouraged Australian employers to do more than pay lip service to gender equality.

“This is something that needs dedicated focus, sustained commitment, and, most importantly, action to continue improving the policies that we know make a difference,” Hon Wooldridge said.

The agency’s scorecard reveals that while 42% of organisations reduced their pay gaps in the last 12 months, 37% saw the gap widen over the same period. 

Top 5 reasons why women are paid less in Australia

Here are the top research-based reasons why Australian women earn less than their male counterparts: 

Birth and childcare 

Naturally, women give birth and are more likely to take care of their children. So some employers would prefer hiring men instead. Based on Australia’s Labour Force statistics, women are 14% less likely to be employed. 

Work availability 

Labour Force statistics reveal that women are 32% less likely to work full time than men. Women are more likely to take care of their school-aged children, so they are more likely to accept part-time jobs and earn less.

WGEA report also reveals that 62% of employed women with a child under five work part-time, while only 8.7 of men do. 

Women are heavily employed in lower-paying jobs. 

WGEA found that female-dominated organisations tend to pay less, especially in industries where workforce roles are gendered such as social assistance or healthcare. 

It also found that while the pay gap is generally lower in organisations with more female managers, the gap at the managerial level increases significantly in favour of men, suggesting that where male managers are few, they are seen as more valuable. 

Longer time for re-employment 

A study conducted by the University of Melbourne suggests that women take longer to be re-employed than men. Only 6 in 10 women were re-employed six months after losing their jobs, compared to 7 in 10 men. Interestingly, women who were re-employed accepted employment at a lower salary. 

Gender discrimination 

Stereotyping women to fill out roles in “gendered” functions such as nursing or pre-school teaching is known as industrial segregation. 

But according to a 2009 analysis from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (Natsem), the overall pay gap was less due to industrial segregation (25%) and more due to unobserved factors or simply being a woman (60%). 

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