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Australia’s Gender Pay Gap Shrinks As Men Join Lower Earning Roles Amid COVID-19

“Our economic recovery depends on women and men having genuine choice and equal access"

Women may still have a while to go until we’re paid equally to male counterparts, but the gap is shrinking. According to new WGEA statistics, Australia’s gender pay gap has dropped to 13.4 per cent, a decline of 0.6 percentage points over the past six months. 

The new analysis showed, on average, women who worked full-time hours earned $1,562 a week, seasonally adjusted, while men who worked full-time hours took home an extra $242, earning an average of $1,804.20 a week.

Libby Lyons, Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, said she was pleased to see a drop in the gender pay gap and believes it may reflect the increase in the number of men in lower-paid full-time employment, a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I understand that this result is, in part, due to an increase in the number of men in lower-paid full-time employment,” Lyons said in a statement. “After all the economic shocks and uncertainties we lived through in 2020, it is very welcome news to have more people in full-time jobs. It is also a very positive sign that our economic recovery is underway.”

Lyons went on to emphasise that the data did not take into consideration the women and men who are under-employed, such as those who had left the workforce or had their hours reduced. 

“I expect to see more labour market volatility over the next 12 to 24 months as the nation settles into a new post-COVID-19 employment environment,” she said. “As the nation’s recovery progresses, we may well see male wages increase with little or no positive improvement in the wages of women. If this happens, it is feasible that the gender pay gap will increase.”

Lyons added that now was the time for employers to “take action to remedy this”, adding that while 2020 was a difficult year for many Australian businesses, “we cannot allow the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to be an excuse for inaction and inertia”.

“Our economic recovery depends on women and men having genuine choice and equal access to re-engage and fully participate in the workforce,” she said.

In February 2020, the WGEA calculated a 0.1 per cent drop in the national gender pay gap, bringing the final difference to 13.9 per cent, which at the time, was a disparity of $242.90 a week. 

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