30+ Surprising Gender Pay Gap Statistics in Australia

Why do women get paid less than men for the same jobs? How come the fairer sex is treated so unfairly? 

The gender pay gap is a tale as old as salaries and time. Unfortunately, it remains a global issue even in today’s developed world, so it’s good that many of us believe it’s inadmissible that women receive a fraction of their male counterparts’ salaries 

If you’re curious about current gender pay gap statistics in Australia, here you’ll find a collection of relevant facts based on labour force data to help you get to the bottom of the pay gap in Australia and its associated issues. 

Let’s dive in!

10 Reasons To Keep Minding The Gap

  • Australia’s overall gender pay gap was 13.4%
  • Women hold one in seven chair positions in Australia
  • One-third of businesses in Australia are currently led by women
  • Women need 59 more working days to earn the same amount as men in a year
  • One in ten women is underemployed
  • 32.4% of women weren’t part of the workforce in 2019-20
  • Women now save significantly fewer retirement funds than men
  • Women in sports earn $24,752 less than men
  • The widest wage gap is in the scientific and technological industry at 24.4%
  • When the pandemic started, women saw a greater reduction in working hours

Gender Pay Gap Statistics in Australia

1. In 2020, the gender pay gap in Australia was 13.4%.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

Does the wage gap exist, really, in Australia, today? Unequivocally, yes – Australian women are paid 13.4% less than men, according to the WGEA gender pay gap report. Average full-time earnings among women across various industries and occupations are estimated at $1,562 per week, whereas the corresponding average weekly remuneration for men amounts to $1,804.

This is actually the lowest the pay gap has been in the past two decades, but it is definitely there.

2. At its peak, the Australian wage gap reached 18.5%.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

The wage gap was at its highest in November 2014. Back then, the female population in Australia was paid almost one-fifth less than their male counterparts in the labour force, a clear sign of serious discrimination against women in the workplace.

3. Women need 59 more working days to earn the same amount as men in a year.

(Equal Pay Alliance)

The Equal Pay Alliance represents union, business, and community groups and has been trying to raise awareness about gender pay inequality as an ongoing problem for women in Australia. The Alliance is known for introducing the “Keep Minding the Gap” hashtag on digital platforms.

According to their data, women on average need 59 additional working days to earn the amount of money that men do in a financial year.

4. The gender pay gap is highest among women over 55.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

According to a 2020 study, women aged 55 and over are experiencing the highest pay gap in Australia, earning 17.7% less than men. Women in the 35-44 age group are the second most affected, earning 17.3% less than men. 

5. The pay gap is lowest among women aged 20 and under.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

The group of women least affected by the gender pay gap are those under 20, as their male counterparts earn only 1.9% more. Women aged 21-34 are next, but they earn 14.2% less money than men.

6. The pay gap in the public sector was 10.6% in 2020.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

In the past two decades, the public sector has maintained a lower discrepancy in wage rates compared to the private sector. To illustrate, the gender pay gap in the public sector is 10.6%, whereas the pay gap in the private sector extends to 16.7%.

The sector has seen a drop in figures in the past 20 years, as the gap nowadays is 5.4% lower than in 1999.

7. Women hold only one out of seven chair positions in Australia.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

Less than 15% of chair positions in Australia are held by women, according to gender equality statistics from 2019 and 2020. Additionally, women hold 28.1% of directorships in Australia and comprise 18.3% of CEO positions. The numbers are slightly higher when it comes to managerial positions, where women hold 32.5%. 

8. A third of boards and governing bodies consist of men only.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

Research shows that 30.2% of all boards and governing bodies in Australia have no female members, a devastating fact for gender employment statistics in Australia. In contrast, 0.4% of governing bodies or boards have no male members.

9. One in ten women is underemployed.

(Wade Institute)

According to gender employment statistics in Australia from 2014, 9% of women lack sufficient paid work that makes full use of their skills and abilities. For comparison, only 5.1% of men in Australia are underemployed.

The study of a pool of some 632,000 women shows that almost one in ten Australian women want more work yet remain underemployed in part-time or other flexible working arrangements. 

10. As much as 98% of Australian women worked at some stage in their pregnancy.

(ABS)

According to recent labour force data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics concerning 2011, practically all Australian women worked at some point while pregnant. Of all mothers who went back to work immediately after giving birth, half worked part-time, but only a quarter of first-time mothers decided to do so.

Significantly, a third of working women took their maternity leave a week or less before giving birth in order to spend more of it with the baby.

Studies show that 22% of pregnant women have felt discriminated against in their workplace, specifically as a result of their pregnancy. 

11. Four out of five fathers took parental leave after the birth of their child.

(ABS)

Related to the issue of gender equality in the workplace is the following figure: a significant proportion (81%) of surveyed fathers said they took parental leave after the birth of their child. Of those, 63% took paid leave, while 33% took unpaid leave.

However, the duration of their leave was relatively short: 70% of fathers had already gone back to work after two weeks. However, 22% of fathers employed in the public sector took 5 or more weeks of paid leave, due to the larger entitlements of the public sector

12. Western Australia has the highest gender pay gap at 23%.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

The highest pay discrepancy on the continent was recorded in Western Australia, where women are paid almost a quarter less than men, according to research from November 2020. Even more disheartening is the fact that the numbers are going up: the wage gap was 22.4% in 2019.

The second-highest pay gap is in the Northern Territory at 13.9%, an increase of 0.8% from the previous year.

13. The lowest gender pay gap is in the Australian Capital Territory.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

The Australian Capital Territory not only has the lowest pay discrepancy between men and women at 6.3% but also has seen the sharpest drop in inequality since 2019, when the pay gap in the state amounted to 8.8%. 

For comparison, the pay gap is at 7% in Tasmania, 8.3% in South Australia, 10.9% in Victoria, and 13.4% in Queensland.

The Gender Pay Gap by Industry

14. Only 34% of businesses in Australia are led by women.

(Wade Institute)

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 66% of businesses are run by men. Despite years of social and political efforts, the proportion of female-led businesses has barely budged – official records indicate a rise of 3% over the past two decades.

15. Almost a third of women were not part of the workforce in 2019-20.

(ABS)

Although about half of the Australian workforce is female, data shows that 32.4% of women were unemployed in 2019-20, compared to about one-fifth of men. Women aged 30-39 were approximately 3 times as likely to be unemployed compared to men. 

16. Women comprise three-quarters of all administrative and clerical workers in Australia.

(ABS)

In 2019-20, administrative workers and clerks were most likely to be female, as 72.7% were. Other female-dominated occupations are community and personal service workers, as well as sales workers. In contrast, male-dominated job positions include machinery operators and drivers, technicians and trade workers, as well as labourers.

Very indicatively, during the period in question, managers were twice as likely to be men (61.4%) than women (38.6%).

17. The widest wage gap is in the professional, scientific and technical services industry.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

At 24.4%, the wage gap is highest in the scientific and technological services industry, according to 2020 data. 

A worrying trend is that the figure has exhibited a recent tendency to grow – there was an increase of 2.3% in wage inequality since the previous year. In 2019, the difference between remunerations for men and women was 22.1%.

18. The financial and insurance sector has a gender pay gap of 22.6%.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

Women employed in the finance and insurance industry are experiencing the second-highest pay gap in Australia, as they receive a paycheck that is more than one-fifth lower that of men for doing the same job.

This is another field where the gender pay gap has been increasing rather than decreasing, as one would hope, in recent years – the pay gap in 2019 stood at 22.2%.

19. Women in tech receive only 80% of men’s salaries.

(Business Insider Australia)

According to the 2018 Women in Tech Index, Australia has one of the highest percentages of women in the tech industry compared to other nations, at 28%. However, they are still being paid 20% less than the average wage rate of their male counterparts. On average, women in tech earn $66,300 per year, whereas the average male salary in Australia in this field is $83,000 per year.

20. Only 4 out of 10 Venture Capital firms have women as partners.

(Wade Institute)

In addition to the gender pay gap that women experience, fewer women decide to start their own businesses, which in turn means they are applying for business accelerators and incubators at a much lower rate. As a result, even fewer women-owned and run companies are funded by venture capital firms and a vicious cycle is created.

This leads to 70.6% of venture capital-funded firms having male-only founders.

21. Only a quarter of new startups are female-owned, survey shows.

(SBS News)

A study conducted by business software company MYOB in October 2020 showed that only 27% of the 1085 start-ups that sought financial backing were female-owned. The situation worsened with the pandemic, as “momtrepreneurs” struggled with child care and schooling.

Crucially, 79% of the women-led companies seeking venture capital were successful in their application, compared to 83% of male-owned businesses. This is a clear indication financial institutions consider that women are doing as well as men in setting up their own business, but regrettably, they do it at a much lower rate. 

22. Even the public administration sector records a gender-based pay gap.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

The public sector and related services maintain a comparatively low difference between male and female wage rates (6.3%), but it still exists. 

Again, the figure is seeing an increase from the previous year, when the gender pay gap in public administration amounted to 5.7%

23. The arts and recreation industry marks the biggest drop in the wage gap.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

Although it still stands at 9.4%, the disparity between male and female salaries in the arts and recreation services diminished by 5.1% between November 2019 and November 2020.

The wholesale trade industry also marked a 3.1% decrease in the gender pay gap.

24. Women predominantly occupy the least-paid job positions.

(Seek) (ABS)

Not only are women paid less than men for doing the same job, the jobs they occupy the most seem to be among the worst-paid.

According to Seek, the women-dominated field of administrative assistants is a poorly paid job, since the average full-time salary in Australia for this position is around $50.000 per year. For comparison’s sake, the average administrator salary in Australia is $78,511 per year.

25. Even women in sports earn a third less than men.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there is a noticeable gender pay gap in sports in Australia as well. The average full-time income for male sportspeople is $67,652, whereas that of women in comparable positions reaches an average of $42,900.

The common rationalization used to justify the inequality in the sector usually revolves around the higher viewership ratings and higher income from live audiences for men’s sports matches.

26. Women are saving significantly fewer retirement funds than men.

(Australian Human Rights Commission) (Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia) (Financial Services Council)

In addition to the gender pay gap in Australia, women’s financial security is also impacted by an alarming gap in superannuation and retirement savings. According to the Financial Services Council in 2020, there was a 31% gap in superannuation and retirement savings between men and women in Australia.

Specifically, 50% of women aged 45 to 59 had $8000 or less in their retirement funds. In contrast, men of the same age group had retirement funds estimated at an average of $31,000. Women aged 45-54 experienced the widest superannuation gap, saving 43% less retirement funds than men.

As a consequence, in 2015-16, the average retirement income in Australia was estimated to be $111,853 for men but only $68,449 for women, according to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia. 

27. Interestingly, the highest-paid CEO in Australia is a woman.

(The CEO Magazine)

On a positive note, the best-paid CEO for 2019 was Macquarie Group boss Shemara Wikramanayake, with a salary of 12.8 million. Standing alongside her are a few other successful women, including Mirvac Group’s Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz and Alison Watkins from Coca-Cola Amatil.

Trends in the Australian Workforce and COVID-19 Impact on the Pay Gap

28. Women experienced a greater reduction of working hours during the pandemic.

(Workplace Gender Equality Agency)

Data from April 2020 shows that male and female workers alike experienced volatility in their wage rates as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to gender employment statistics in Australia, women have been slightly more affected by the crisis. 

Fortunately, this trend was reversed later in the year: women in Australia experienced a larger increase in hours worked in the period between May and August 2020.

29. Female-dominated industries witness a dramatic decline in pay.

(ABS) (ABS)

Administrative and support services have seen a decrease in total payroll payments by 4.6%. This significantly affects women in Australia, as administration is an area that largely consists of female workers.

Another female-dominated area recently experiencing difficulties is the financial and insurance service industry, with a decrease in total wages by 14.5%. Given that this industry already has a sizable gender pay gap in Australia, it comes as no shock that women in these positions are subject to poorer financial and social security during a pandemic.

30. 2021 marks the 52nd anniversary of equal pay legislation in Australia.

(Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) (Australian Government)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 recognized the principle of equal pay for both sexes. Australia was one of the nations that drafted the declaration and among the first to adopt its principles. Additional legislation was introduced in 1969, commonly known as the Equal Pay Act of Australia, in order to further strengthen the solutions needed to surpass the issue of the gender pay gap.

One of the most important pieces of equal pay legislation in Australia is the 2012 Workplace Gender Equality Act, which included the creation of a special agency to fight the problem. The agency is now known as the Workplace Gender Equality Agency of Australia and is a treasure trove of authoritative facts and figures on the matter.

 Gender Pay Gap: Australia vs. the UK

31. In 2020, the gender pay gap in the UK dropped to 15.5%.

(Office of National Statistics of the UK)

Despite the 1.9% decrease since 2019, the gender pay gap in the UK is still bigger than in Australia, according to a study conducted by the Office of National Statistics of the United Kingdom.

32. The construction, finance, and insurance industries have the widest gender pay gap in the UK.

(Office of National Statistics of the UK)

Similar to the situation in Australia, the finance and insurance sectors in the United Kingdom are among those with the largest disparity in wage rates between men and women. Where the UK differs is the inclusion of the construction industry amongst the problematic fields regarding the gender pay gap.

33. COVID-19 didn’t seem to affect the gender pay gap in the UK.

(Office of National Statistics of the UK)

Although the pandemic has been rough on the UK labour market, only 11.2% of employees experienced a decrease in wages due to a reduction of working hours. In terms of demographics, 10% of females and 12.5% of male workers were affected.

Comparatively, women in Australia seem to have experienced more adverse effects stemming from the pandemic.

34. Globally, the UK and Australia are among states with moderate pay gaps.

(Financial Times)

Even though Australia and the UK are battling the existence and extent of gender pay inequality, a look at the bigger picture shows that both countries are relatively well placed globally. Their pay gap figures pale in comparison to South Korea, whose median gender pay gap is almost 40%, Japan, or Estonia.

What is the bottom line?

The gender pay gap is an acute and ongoing issue, according to facts and figures from gender pay gap statistics in Australia. There is no doubt that the situation has changed for the better, but both men and women must continue the fight for social and economic equality, including equal pay for women and men.

Sources:

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