Australia

Gender pay gap must be closed with force

The gender pay gap in Australia has remained largely unchanged for 20 years. (AAP)

The gender pay gap in Australian remains little changed in 20 years, but closing it requires more than just having men step up and do more.

The gender pay gap in Australia remains largely unchanged and will stay that way until governments and employers help crush inequalities in both the workplace and in wider society, says the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA).

While the gender pay gap reached a record low in November 2018, it has remained between 14 per cent and 19 per cent for the past 20 years. At 14.1 per cent currently, this means women earn $239.80 per week less than men, on average.

Key contributors to the pay gap are women's disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, lack of workplace flexibility and time out of the workforce, according to DCA's new report Let's Share the Care: A Call to Action to Reduce the Gender Pay Gap.

DCA's CEO Lisa Annese says women are sick of the burden of unpaid care roles and housework falling primarily on their shoulders, particularly if they are mothers.

"Once women have children, they take on the lion's share of caring and household management, and 10 years later, they are still doing more than men, even if they are working full-time," she said in a statement.

"Many women I know are frustrated by this inequality, but fixing it is more than just having some men step up and do more. Government and employers must proactively dismantle the structural, societal and workplace inequalities that enable this inequality."

Caring for a child or a person with disability remains very gendered.

In 2016-17, just one in every 20 parents taking primary parental leave was a father, and 8 per cent of fathers take fewer than four weeks leave. Meanwhile, twice as many women as men are the primary carer to a person with a disability, and of these women, 57 per cent are not in the labour force.

Women's disproportionately greater time out of the workforce affects their opportunities to develop skills, undertake training and increase their lifetime earnings.

Strategies to share the care and close the gap include better access to flexible and affordable childcare, introducing workplace policies that are supportive of families, including "shared care" leave or equal paid leave, and challenging stereotypes and social norms that reinforce traditional gender roles.

It's also up to families to renegotiate who does what in the home so care is shared equally and both women and men have equal opportunity to work, says Ms Annese.

"There is a high level of support for sharing the care, especially given Australian men and women overwhelmingly believe that men should be as involved in parenting as women."

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