Conclusions and recommendations
Industrial and occupational gender segregation is one of the most
pervasive and intractable aspects of economic labour market inequality, both in
Australia and in comparable jurisdictions around the world. It is a key driver
of the gender pay gap.
In addition to the impacts on Australian women, workplace gender
segregation has significant implications, for Australia's capacity to drive
innovation and respond to structural and technological changes in an
increasingly competitive global economy.
The impact of technological and social change is shaping the future of
work in Australia. Without a strategy that clearly recognises and addresses the
causes and impact of gender segregation, there is a risk that gender inequality
will not only persist but become further entrenched in Australian workplaces.
A wide range of representative groups including peak employer
organisations, trade unions, professional employee groups, women's advocacy
organisations, government departments and agencies, and academic researchers
gave evidence to the committee.
The inquiry heard that Australia and Australian businesses would reap
considerable economic advantages by addressing industrial and occupational
gender segregation, including:
closing the gap between male and female employment and
productivity has the potential to boost Australia's GDP by between 11 per cent
and more than 20 per cent;
as much as $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by
advancing women's equality; and
ASX50012 companies with women directors on their boards delivered
significantly higher Return on Equity (ROE) than those companies without women
Evidence submitted to the inquiry included suggestions for both
short-term and longer-term measures, ranging from encouraging more women into
male-dominated and non-traditional industries through training, education and
employer-led processes, to legislative reforms to address the undervaluation of
work traditionally undertaken by women.
As noted in Chapter 1, the Committee does not seek to revisit the
detailed work undertaken through previous inquiries. Rather, the
recommendations set out below seek to establish a broad policy framework to
that if implemented in a co-ordinated way, would begin to address this
seemingly intractable source of inequity.
National policy framework for Pay Equity
Australia requires a focused and co-ordinated strategy to address the
many and complex factors that contribute to the gender pay gap in Australian
While there are a range of current measures which seek to support
Australian women at work, there is little clarity about whether these measures
are intended to support pay equity, and on what timeframe.
Government should bring focus to these efforts by establishing a
national policy framework for pay equity.
The national policy framework should include specific measures designed
to achieve pay equity, promote flexible work practices for both men and women.
This may include extensions to the period of Paid Parental Leave (PPL), new
provisions for the payment of the superannuation guarantee during PPL, improved
access to affordable high quality early childhood education and care, and reforms
to legislative or policy instruments to support pay equity.
The inquiry heard evidence of successful initiatives that have been
introduced in both the public and private sectors, aimed at reducing industrial
and occupational gender segregation in the wider labour market. Measures
adopted by the Australian Public Service, private sector initiatives cited in
this inquiry, and case studies collated by Diversity Council Australia and
Workplace Gender Equality Agency, have potential for wider application in
Australian workplaces and offer valuable models that should inform the development
of the national policy framework. Some measures provided in evidence to this
inquiry are summarised at Appendix 3.
The committee recommends that the Office for Women in the Department of
the Prime Minister and Cabinet lead the development and implementation of a
national policy framework to achieve gender pay equity in Australia. The
framework should set a pay equity target date, provide an advisory structure to
guide implementation, provide a roadmap for achieving pay equity in Australia,
address segregation in Australian workplaces, and draw on measures in
Australia’s public and private sectors and in comparable overseas
The national policy framework to achieve pay equity should coordinate
efforts across agencies of government to address the factors that adversely
affect women’s workforce participation and gender segregation, including:
reforms to flexible work provisions that will increase access for
men and women, and make provision for employees to appeal decisions;
an extension to the period of PPL and new provisions for the
payment of superannuation guarantee during PPL;
improved access to affordable high quality early childhood
education and care; and
recognition of career paths and qualifications for feminised
industries, particularly the care industry.
Reforms to Fair Work Act 2009
Submitters presented a range of evidence demonstrating that the
undervaluation of work undertaken by women is a major contribution to the
gender pay gap and structural inequalities in the labour market.
Women in female-dominated industries earn, on average, almost $40,000
less than the average full-time total remuneration of a man in a male-dominated
The problem is particularly acute in occupations involving caring; work
dependent on skills which are historically under-valued in the labour market.
This arises from ingrained perceptions that caring work is low skill, and that
it is acceptable for women with caring responsibilities to be paid at a low
level when the work is performed outside the home, because it is work that is considered
to be emotionally rewarding.
The Fair Work Act contains provisions that are designed to
provide for equal remuneration. In practice these provisions have only once
been applied for the purpose of making an order of equal remuneration.
Equal remuneration is not an explicit object of the Fair Work Act, nor
does the Act provide a positive duty on the Fair Work Commission to remedy
gender pay inequity.
Under the Fair Work Act, it is unclear whether applicants may
simultaneously pursue an equal remuneration case and a work value case before
the Fair Work Commission. This uncertainty may hinder applications for applications
for equal remuneration.
The introduction of an Equal Remuneration Principle in New South Wales
and Queensland state legislation offers a model that could be implemented, with
similar benefits, at the national level.
Legislation to introduce a similar approach to the Fair Work Act would provide
a fairer basis for determining gender-based undervaluation.
The committee recommends that the Fair Work Act 2009 be amended
to improve its capacity to address equal remuneration, including:
introducing gender pay equity as an overall object of the Act;
the provision of guidance for both the Commission and applicant
parties on making and applying for orders of equal remuneration. Such guidance
could draw on Principles previously adopted in NSW and Queensland
requiring that consideration of orders make reference to
historical and contemporary gender-based undervaluation;
suggesting the steps required by applicants to demonstrate that
undervaluation was gendered or had a gender-associated cause; and
clarifying that applications may be made without the need for a
direct male comparator to establish undervaluation;
clarifying that applications may be made for equal remuneration
orders and work value claims simultaneously; and
clarifying the definition of remuneration to include recompense
or reward for services rendered, including non-cash benefits.
The committee further recommends government conduct a comprehensive
consultation process with expert stakeholders to achieve these reforms and
define any others needed to the Act to achieve pay equity for Australian women.
Reforms to Fair Work Commission
The current process for applicants seeking an equal remuneration order
under the Fair Work Act is adversarial, time consuming, and costly. One
case has been successfully completed before the Commission since 2013. There is
a view that the Fair Work Commission needs to find a more effective means of
resolving equal remuneration applications in a timely way.
The committee notes that the Fair Work Commission's Pay Equity Unit
(PEU) was established in March 2013 following the 2009 House of Representatives
Making it Fair inquiry, to provide the Commission with specialist pay
equity research under the Fair Work Act, and that the PEU received specific
funding which has now ceased.
The committee considers that the government should restore funding to
the Pay Equity Unit to enable it to continue to provide expert research and
advice to the Fair Work Commission, with an enhanced capacity to provide expert
advice on equal remuneration matters.
The Pay Equity Unit (PEU) was established as part of the Fair Work
Commission to undertake pay equity related research and provide information to
inform matters relating to pay equity. The committee recommends that the
restore and protect the budget of the PEU;
investigate the provision of enhanced advisory functions for the
PEU via an expert Pay Equity Panel, to undertake research into pay equity
matters and provide recommendations for consideration by a Full Bench of the
Fair Work Commission; and
conduct a review of alternative means of making equal
remuneration orders, such as conciliation via the Pay Equity Panel, with a view
to achieving more timely resolution of equal remuneration applications.
Career exploration and guidance
Gender stereotypes and unconscious bias pose a complex challenge for
policy-makers and are not wholly within the scope of this inquiry. Existing
government programs and initiatives for encouraging girls and young women to
explore non-traditional careers is an established avenue for tackling workplace
segregation but results to date are mixed.
The 2008 Australian Blueprint for Career Development and the 2011 National
Career Guidance Strategy are tools that can be employed to support the delivery
of gender sensitive career guidance.
The evidence indicated there are a multiple initiatives in various
jurisdictions that are currently seeking to address the under-representation of
women in the STEM sector.
The committee recommends that the Department of Education and Training
update the National Career Development Strategy and the Australian Blueprint for
Career Development to address the need for gender sensitive career guidance and
counselling in all Australian schools and training institutions. The strategy
recognise that women and men may respond differently to
information about occupations, industries and further education;
provide mixed gender career role models, mentors and experiences,
with particular sensitivity to addressing gender segregation; and
offer guidelines for qualifications and continuing professional
development (CPD) for career guidance professionals.
The committee recommends that the Department of Education and Training
undertake a national evaluation of all programs and initiatives associated with
increasing numbers of girls in STEM education, to provide benchmark data and
best practice guidelines.
Gender data reporting
Australia is a world leader in terms of gender data reporting, and this
data has yielded valuable evidence to this inquiry about gender segregation, the
gender pay gap and potential legislative and policy responses. However, the
committee also heard that there is room for improvement to Australia's gender
data reporting system, with several witnesses suggesting the need for:
more fine-grained data that enable policymakers, employers and
employees to better understand the nature of gender segregation within
particular industries and occupations; and
a way of co-ordinating data across the different gender datasets
so that specific data can be interrogated and matched more easily (for example,
matching employer and employee gender data).
The committee recognises the importance of the maintaining high-quality longitudinal
datasets to provide policymakers with insight into the nature and scope of
gender segregation and the gender pay gap in Australia.
The recent United Kingdom initiative on Gender Pay Gap Reporting takes
the current Australian reporting requirements to WGEA a step further, by
requiring large companies to publicly report on any gender pay gap that exists
in their organisation, and provide an explanation of that gap.
The government should review the outcomes of this initiative in order to
enable Australian policymakers to consider the merit of implementing a similar
model as part of its world's best practice gender data reporting system.
The committee recommends that the government conduct a review of the
recent initiative in the United Kingdom on Gender Pay Gap Reporting within two
years of the program’s implementation.
The committee recommends that the government conduct a review of labour
force data with particular attention to job classifications used by the
Australian Bureau of Statistics and the integration of other available
datasets. This review should engage businesses, WGEA, unions and academics.
The committee recommends that the ABS Time Use study recommence on a
Senator Jenny McAllister
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