Australia’s parental leave problem
Australia’s parental leave problem
There’s good news and bad news from the latest data sweep of large private sector employers on gender equality. Businesses are doing more to close the gender pay gap but for some reason it’s still a struggle to get parental leave.
The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) latest’s pay analysis data, which measures 11,000 organisations with over 100 employees, shows the gender pay gap dropped to 21.3 per cent this year, which is the biggest single-year drop (down 1.1 percentage points) in the average full-time total remuneration gender pay gap.
The improvement follows a similar trend in the national gender pay gap, as measured by average wages data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and reported in the Financy Women’s Index for September.
The national gender pay gap fell to a 20-year low of 14.6 per cent in May, from 15.2 per cent in November 2017 as improving employment growth particularly in two of the highest paying sectors benefited women despite sluggish overall wages growth.
The two gender pay gap numbers are different because of their sample sizes and depth. But they nonetheless tell a story of progress, albeit a very slow moving one.
WGEA’S Efforts to encourage companies to report their gender pay data are overall having a positive impact but there are still a number of challenges with women struggling to find the support they need to take career breaks to have children.
More than 50 per cent of employers provide no access to paid primary carer’s leave, in addition to the government scheme.
Access to paid parental leave is highly dependent on the size and industry of the employer.
In 2017-18, the number of employers offering paid parental leave for primary carers increased by 1.8 percentage point to 47.8 per cent.
- Primary carer’s leave is most commonly offered in Education and Training (79 per cent) and Financial and Insurance Services (73.2 per cent).
- Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services remains in the top three (71.7 per cent) despite a 7 percentage point drop since 2016-17.
- Primary carer’s leave is least frequent in Accommodation and Food Services (21.2per cent) and Retail Trade (21 per cent).
- Primary carer’s leave is most commonly available in large organisations: 74 per cent of organisations with 5000+ employees offer it, compared with 42.2 per cent of organisations with fewer than 250 employees.
- Average length of paid primary carer’s leave offered is 10.3 weeks.
- 41.8 per cent of employers offered paid parental leave for secondary carers – an increase of 2.5 percentage points.
- Average length of paid secondary carer’s leave offered is 1.6 weeks.
- Women account for 94.9 per cent of all primary carer’s leave utilised with men accounting for only 5.1 per cent.
- Overall, women account for 72.2 per cent of all carer’s leave while men comprise the remaining 27.8 per cent.
- WGEA’s report shows that the gender gap gap increased among reporting construction companies, up 2 percentage points to 29.4 per cent. It now has the second-highest industry gender pay gap.
The gender pay gap increased for the second year in a row in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector up to 16.1 per cent. This is the economy’s biggest employer of women with over 1.3 million women, compared to about 300,000 men.
The gaps in both of the above sectors are largely affected by men dominating senior management roles or higher, and there being more of a mix between women working full and part-time.
The WGEA data records a steady increase in the number of women in management roles but hardly much change at CEO board appointments.
Women’s management representation has increased in most industries, with only four sectors recording lower proportions of female managers this year.
The biggest industry increases in female representation among managers were in Financial and Insurance Services, Administrative and Support Services and Arts and Recreation Service.
Strong growth was recorded in employer action in areas such as overall gender equality policies and strategies, pay equity and flexible work.
But overall the data confirms that we still have a long way to go and that women are still struggling to find real workplace equality.
There are pay gaps favouring men in every industry and occupation and women earn, on average, just 79 per cent of men’s full-time total remuneration salaries.
WGEA Director Libby Lyons said the Agency’s dataset shows that employer action has delivered real outcomes but that women still face considerable barriers in Australia’s workplaces.
“Although the gender pay gap has narrowed every year, progress is too slow. Access to parental leave has not improved, with the provision of paid primary carer’s leave actually going backwards.
“The glass walls persist in industry segregation, which remains deeply entrenched in Australia. The glass ceiling is still a barrier for women at the CEO and board levels.
“The first five years of data shows where we are seeing positive change and where we need to make more effort. We now need even more employers to take action so that we can accelerate the momentum for gender equality in Australian workplaces,” said Ms Lyons.
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