Women looking to get some of the ACT's female-dominated jobs are facing increased pressure to undergo higher education, but their wages aren't reflective of their investment, advocates say.
The healthcare and social assistance industry is Canberra's second-largest employer behind public administration and safety. Government projections show it will have the highest job growth between 2019 and 2023; if it reaches that scale, the industry will employ twice as many people as construction in Canberra.
The ACT Council of Social Service, along with the Women's Centre for Health Matters, reviewed several community service occupations for their recently released labour market update report.
The community service roles fall under the healthcare and social assistance industry. Chief executive of the council, Susan Helyar, said between 75 and 90 per cent of the jobs were held by women.
"Community services are vital to quality of life, supporting people going through difficult circumstances, assisting with activities of daily living, enabling social inclusion and nurturing children and older people," she said.
"People working in those occupations are increasingly bringing sophisticated knowledge and skills to their roles - 48 per cent have a degree qualification - but wages do not provide an equivalent reward for expertise compared with other industries."
Between 2013 and 2016, personal care workers had relatively good wage growth - from an average of $900 a week, to $1265 a week - but welfare workers and childhood carers weren't as fortunate, Ms Helyar said. In 2016, nearly 32 per cent of childcare workers had a diploma, or an advanced diploma, compared with nearly 35 per cent who had a certificate III or IV in 2013.
About 50 per cent of childhood carers worked part-time in 2016, compared with 48 per cent in 2013. More welfare carers also worked part-time in 2016, and nearly 27 per cent had a bachelor's degree, compared with the same percentage of people who had a certificate III or IV in 2013.
"Certainly, there are a large number of people who value permanent part-time work, which allows them to balance their outside work, caring, parenting, or other responsibilities," Ms Helyar said.
"But actually, we know there is a significant amount of underemployment in the sector. That is evidenced by the long service leave scheme data, which shows people are holding two jobs, three jobs, and sometimes four jobs at the same time.
"There's actually a large number of people who would like full-time work but they can't get it."
The report showed the percentage of part-time workers in the female-dominated occupations of contract, program and project administrators, intelligence and policy analysts, general clerks, and registered nurses had also increased from 2013 to 2016.
Chief executive of the Women's Centre for Health Matters, Marcia Williams, said women were over represented in the bottom 40 per cent of income groups.
"Women continue to be disadvantaged in the ACT labour market because the industries they are most likely to work in, and the occupations they are most likely to be employed to do, are underpaid," she said.
"This is most likely for women who are Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander, over 80 years old, a single parent, a carer, in newly arrived communities, or who have a disability."
The number of women in senior executive positions in the public service had grown from nearly 42 per cent, to nearly 48 per cent between 2014 and 2019, the report said.
More pre-primary school teachers were full-time, had good wage growth, and a university degree compared with 2014.