Pandemic hits women’s pockets harder, as gender pay gap grows

By Melissa Coade

Monday August 30, 2021

Our Watch has raised concerns that women will be ‘left behind’ in Australia’s pandemic recovery, with a growing gender pay gap now at $261.50 a week.
Our Watch has raised concerns that women will be ‘left behind’ in Australia’s pandemic recovery, with a growing gender pay gap now at $261.50 a week. (Wayhome Studio/adobe)

Our Watch has raised concerns that women will be ‘left behind’ in Australia’s pandemic recovery, with a growing gender pay gap now at $261.50 a week. 

The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on industries dominated by workers who are women has resulted in the gender pay gap in Australia growing to 14.2%, according to gender equality organisation Our Watch.

Tuesday marks ‘equal pay day’ and the disproportionate impact of COVID on what women take home has been underscored by Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly. 

Making sure that women are not left behind in the economic recovery from COVID will benefit the whole of our community,” Kinnersly said. 

Caring professions have been the hardest hit, with workers in the early childhood education and care, health care and aged care sectors experiencing cut hours and job losses. The nature of public health orders has also meant that there has been a rise in unpaid carer demands for women and mothers across all work sectors. 

Data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) shows that the gender pay gap in Australia has increased by 0.8% in the last six months alone, which is equivalent to a $261.50 pay packet between full-time workers who are men and women.

Kinnersly is advocating for workplaces to implement genuinely flexible working arrangements (for both men and women) and a focus on how policies and processes address discrimination and inequality in the way that women’s careers progress

“We need governments to apply a gendered approach to all policies, for example ensuring that economic stimulus packages do not disproportionately benefit male-dominated industries,” Kinnerly said. 

“Workplaces also have a critical role to play in improving gender equality.

On equal pay day, Our Watch is encouraging employers to conduct a gender pay audit by utilising the resources on its website, with a view to identifying and eliminating examples of discriminatory pay. 

Kinnersly said that understanding how discriminatory pay intersects with other inequalities, and the long-term economic impact of COVID, was crucial to progressing equality for all. 

She also noted that other forms of discrimination such as racism, ableism, ageism and homophobia are relevant examples to look for in workforce pay data. 

“We need to take more steps to understand other forms of inequality, such as how cultural background, age, ability or sexuality is used to discriminate in workplaces and how this can widen the gender pay further,” Kinnersly said. 

“In order to advance this work, Our Watch’s Workplace Equality and Respect gives workplaces freely available standards, processes and tools to identify and reform organisational practices that devalue, exclude or marginalise women.

“All women deserve to be not only safe, but respected, valued and treated equally. That is a fundamental human right,” she said.

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