A new report has called for a national target to close the gender pay gap and for gender pay equity to be enshrined in workplace laws.
A Senate inquiry report, tabled in parliament on Wednesday, made nine recommendations – most of which were rejected by government members of the committee.
Committee chair, Labor senator Jenny McAllister, said it was time to do more than just measure the gender pay gap.
“It is time to take action,” she said.
The report found a woman working in a female-dominated industry would, on average, earn almost $40,000 less at total remuneration than the average full-time total remuneration of a man in a male-dominated industry.
“The problem is particularly acute in occupations involving caring, such as childcare, in-home disability, aged care and education, where the nature of the work demands ’emotional labour’,” the report said.
“Whilst these are essential skills for workers in the care economy, they are undervalued in the labour market.”
The report called for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s office of women to start work on a national policy to achieve gender pay equity.
It should set a target date and roadmap to achieve equity.
As well, the Fair Work Act should be amended to include gender pay equity as an overall object of the Act and the Fair Work Commission provided with guidance on making and applying orders of equal remuneration.
Government senators on the committee gave in-principle support to the idea of reviewing science, technology, engineering and maths programs in schools to improve the number of girls studying in these fields.
They also backed improvements to career guidance for girls.
However they said changing workplace laws were “not only unnecessary, but they are likely to impose additional constraints and burdens on employers, particularly larger employers who already have effective strategies and initiatives in place to promote gender neutral employment practices and greater diversity in their workplaces”.