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Wage gap between men and women grows closer, but only just


Liam Ducey

Foreshadowing: Our role as working mothers will be as influential on children as having parents who read.

Foreshadowing: Our role as working mothers will be as influential on children as having parents who read.

Despite a drop of about one per cent, the disparity in wages between men and women in WA is still the highest in the nation, according to statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday.

While Western Australian men are the highest earning in the nation and WA women are the second highest paid in Australia, behind the ACT, WA leads the nation in the gender gap.

According to ABS statistics, women in WA earn 25.3 per cent less than their male counterparts.

Queensland is the next highest at 23.2 per cent, followed by South Australia and New South Wales (both on 16.6 per cent), while Victoria sits on 13.9 per cent and Tasmania 11.7 per cent.

Canberra, with an abnormally high percentage of workers in the public sector, holds the lowest gender disparity of about nine per cent.

The national average gender gap is 18.3 per cent.

Unions WA secretary Meredith Hammat it was disappointing to see WA with the biggest gap.

Ms Hammat said the likely drivers were the high percentage of men working in the resources industry and the fields women predominantly worked in.

"It's a function of the fact that the workplaces women tend to work in, the industry women tend to work in, are less likely to be recognised and properly paid for their skills," she said.

"We're talking human services, childcare workers, aged care workers, those in the caring profession typically don't receive, in my view, the pay that reflects the very important role they play in the community and the very high level of skill required to do those jobs.

"On the other end of the scale you have the mining sector in WA. There are men in that industry on very high salaries, so that is also working to extend the gap."

Ms Hammat also used the statistics to criticise ths state government's wages policy, which caps public servants' pay increases in line with inflation.

"This government's wages policy capping pay increases for public sector workers, also contributes to that gap," she said.

However Ms Hammat did concede the gender gap was down from last year's figures.

Department of Commerce figures show that compared to last year, male average earnings have decreased, possibly due to a softening of demand for labour in high earning, male-dominated industries. Female earnings continued to increase.

While this helps to account for the reduction of the gap, Ms Hammat said it was not nearly enough.

"It is down by about one per cent but if women are only getting paid about 75 per cent of men's wages, that's still not right," she said. has attempted to contact Commerce Minister Michael Mischin but he is out of the state on business The Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also been contacted for comment.

3 comments so far

  • What a useless analysis. Guys working up on site earn more as they work 12 hour days away from home. On the one hand these unions spend all this time extracting higher wages in industries that are male dominated (mining, construction, shipping, etc) and then complain about how unfair it is men are making more than women.

    Women often make choices in their careers that impact their salaries (ie, choosing to work in a lower paid job they enjoy or going part time for long periods to look after kids which reduces their rate of promotion). Despite the changing environment, men are still often the major breadwinner, so they have a greater tendency to chase higher wages over the enjoyment of their job for the benefit of their family.

    It begs the question. What does Meredith want? Childcare workers to earn $150k a year and work 12 hour days 4 weeks at a time away from their families? Or earn the same working sociable 8-4 hours working minutes from their homes??

    The market decides the value of your employment. If you want to make more money, get a different job. If you want a job in relatively high demand as many people covet it, despite the low pay rates, then you have to be prepared to face the fact you won't be paid as much. Regardless of your sex.

    Date and time
    August 15, 2014, 5:46PM
    • I'm going to sound a bit naive here but I thought the wage gap was the difference between what a woman gets paid compared to what a man gets paid to do the same job in the same company. For example a large supermarket chain is paying it female store managers less than their male counterparts.

      However reading this article I understand the problem in WA is that there is a somewhat more segregated work force with males more prevalent in high paying sectors (mining) while females are more common in lower paying industries like child and aged care. But how can they be compared? What's the methodology of defining what the counterpart to a child care worker is in the mining industry?

      Or is it a simple as collecting all the female tax returns in the state with all the male ones? You would have to assume it takes into account part time work, premium pay for FIFO workers and years of experience / seniority?

      Regardless of the skills, training and expertise involved private sector workers are paid on the amount of wealth they can generate for their employer. A plant manager or even a loader operator gets paid handsomely because attracting and retaining a good one can make a big difference to your bottom line. But while a child care worker plays an important role in society and could be highly trained and skilled the demand for these services and the price pressure on them means their wages are unlikely to match those working in the mining sector

      Couldn't Resist
      Date and time
      August 15, 2014, 6:07PM
      • I see this often and I feel I should say what many see as a real look at the situation.
        In some lines of work a man or woman may be seen as the same- fair enough, however consider this- if I am a man working in a role where strength and resilience is required and the company has women in the roles alongside men yet the women that cant carry as much or work as hard as the men then why should they be paid the same rate? Men do not want to or shouldn't have to work more/ harder because other people aren't up to the job - why should a woman who can't do as much as a man be paid the same money on the same job? If its all about equality then this is not an example of it when they are paid the same despite some having to carry others because they aren't up to it.

        Also consider the men that have trade/ site/ industry quals/ experience and the women that don't- should that be a factor in who gets paid more when they are in the same level position? Experience and quals are a factor too.

        Date and time
        August 15, 2014, 11:30PM

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