Close this gender pay gap, it's an impediment
AS CLOUDS of economic doom continue to shroud most of the world's leading economies, Australians once again find themselves with the tag of ''the lucky country''.
Yet our virtually unmatched prosperity and standard of living has not been shared evenly, leaving significant groups behind while pouring gold into the pockets of others.
One of the most concerning disparities in our economy is the gender pay gap. Another report released last week confirms previous analysis by this newspaper showing women have not enjoyed the same benefits as men in these times of plenty.
According to the report by the federal government's own Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the size of the gender pay gap for university graduates more than doubled in the last 12 months.
While the gap is often blamed on women choosing to take time out of work to start families, what is particularly concerning about the latest data is that these factors are less likely to be playing a part, as they refer to graduates straight out of university.
As a prosperous society committed to the values of equality, we must seriously question why in this day and age we appear to be discriminating when it comes to pay.
Fairfax's own analysis shows that while overall wages have increased, the percentage gap for all workers has remained static or increased in most industries over the last decade. Significant gains were made during the 1960s to 1990s, yet seem to have plateaued.
It is simply not good enough to explain away the inequity with claims that women are less likely to put themselves forward for promotion, or push for pay rises.
If women as a group are not making it into top high-paying jobs as often as they should, it suggests a problem with the workplace, not the employees.
Making flexible working conditions the norm, opening senior positions to job sharing and part-time workers, and breaking down the stigma that tells women they must choose between family and career should be just the start.
Australia is surrounded by ambitious, rapidly developing nations that are becoming increasingly competitive in industries that put food on Australian tables. If we want to remain the lucky country, we must remove barriers and disincentives that prevent some of our brightest and best from participating in the economy.
We might be the lucky country for now, but our legendary commitment to a fair go is starting to sound a lot like hollow jingoism.