The gender pay gap in Australia may have decreased slightly this year but it looks like it’s not going anywhere fast. In a scene from the upcoming SBS documentary Is Australia Sexist? boys and girls participate in an experiment where they are given balloons to play with, and then asked to collect the balloons and place them into baskets. At the end of the task, each child is given a cup filled with sweets. Where the girls receive a cup half-full, the boys’ cups are nearly flowing over.
“I don’t think it’s right,” one girl says in response to being told the boy received more lollies because he’s a boy, while another boy stated, “I don’t understand why we wouldn’t be paid the same.” Neither do we.
For some of these kids, it was their first experience of the harsh reality of Australia’s gender pay gap. Currently, our gender pay gap of all full-time workers in Australia is at 14.6 per cent, where women earn an average of $244.80 less than men each week. And even though this gap is the lowest it has been in 20 years, there are still many industries that reveal discrepancies between pay for male and female workers. Across the board, the gender pay gap favours men for full-time positions. That’s every industry and occupation, in both managerial and non-managerial positions, reports the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).
Part of this gap is due to what Dr Catherine Lumby calls a gendered workforce, “Women are persistently in lower paid roles because we gender our workforce,” she says in Is Australia Sexist? “So childcare, for instance, is not the same as being paid in a merchant bank.”
Add to this the fact that women are more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for children, and when they do return, it's often in a part-time arrangement. The disproportionate amount of women who participate in unpaid domestic work, also explains part of this gender pay gap.
But the wage discrepancy is not just due to unpaid work and a gendered workforce. There's a gap within industries, too. According to the WGEA, as of May 2018, the highest pay gap was in financial and insurance services (26.6 per cent), health care and social assistance industries (25 per cent), and hiring and real estate services (24.1 per cent).
The arts industries had a gap of 19.3 per cent, construction 15.1 per cent, and education and training 11.5 per cent. WGEA’s research found that despite doing the same hours, women in full time positions earn $27,000 less than men each year.
It’s worth noting that most of the population thinks this gap is unfair. According to Macquarie University’s Is Australia Sexist survey, 88 per cent of Australians believe that men and women should be paid the same for doing the same job, so perhaps it’s time for industries to reflect that. As one little girl in the video said, “We did the same work, so we need the same lollies.” Straight from the mouths of babes.
Is Australia Sexist? premieres on SBS Australia, 4 December, 8.40pm, and will be available to stream at SBS On Demand.