The gender pay gap for full time workers in Australia is currently 14.1%, but this number does not tell the entire story. Women comprise approximately 47% of employees in Australia, account for 68% of primary carers for older people and people with a disability and 95% of employees taking primary parental leave. The result of this is a significant amount of time spent out of the workforce or engaged in employment other than full time work.
Part time and casual workers are disproportionately women, with family responsibilities being a key driver. As of September 2018, the ABS reported that 46.6% of women are employed part time, by comparison to only 18.6% of men. Part time and casual work is notoriously precarious, meaning that there is decreased job security by comparison to full time work. In addition, while the national policy debate often focuses on unemployment rates, underemployment is a serious issue for precarious workers.
Underemployment occurs when a person who wants to and is capable of working more hours than they are but is not able to. The ABS reported that as of September 2018 10.2% of women are underemployed in Australia, compared to 6.3% of men. Workers who are underemployed often want to work more hours, but those hours are not made available to them.
The flow on effect of part-time and precarious work is stark, with many employees having unpredictable pay, inferior working rights and entitlements, limited or no access to paid leave, irregular and unpredictable working hours, and uncertainty over their job security. This is referred to as insecure work and it is an issue impacting thousands of Australian women every year.
Over the employment lifecycle this significantly reduces the earning capacity and career progression of many women, also resulting in a significant and concerning superannuation gap. Until we have genuinely flexible workplaces where women, and carers, are in a position to maintain their responsibilities at home alongside gainful employment, the gender pay gap will continue to be a significant problem.
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