Gender pay gap shrinks during COVID recovery as low-paid men regain employment

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Women still earn less than their male counterparts, but the gap is shrinking.

The latest snapshot of Australian’s pay by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows the wage gap has dropped 0.6 per cent, to 13.4 per cent.

On average, women who worked full-time hours earned $1,562 a week, seasonally adjusted, while men who worked full-time hours took home an extra $242, earning an average of $1,804.20 a week.

The numbers are collated from data taken in November last year.

But the shrinking pay gap can also be put down to the kinds of jobs that are recovering after the COVID recession.

“While the recovery has varied by industry and other factors, there has been enough recovery at the lower end of the distribution to put downward pressure on the average,” explained Bjorn Jarvis, head of Labour Statistics at the ABS.

Now the jobs that are mostly being recovered are lower paid roles, the overall averages are adjusting to reflect that.

‘Cannot allow COVID to be an excuse for inaction’

The head of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Libby Lyons, cautiously welcomed the reduction in the pay gap.

“I understand that this result is, in part, due to an increase in the number of men in lower-paid full-time employment,” she said.

“It does not, however, reflect any underlying structural changes to women’s overall position in the workforce.”

Ms Lyons said there was still work to do to level out men and women’s pay, and was encouraging employers to keep that front of mind as they moved into a post-COVID-19 recovery.

“I appreciate that 2020 was a very difficult year for many Australian businesses, but we cannot allow the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to be an excuse for inaction and inertia,” she said.

“Our economic recovery depends on women and men having genuine choice and equal access to re-engage and fully participate in the workforce.”

Overall ordinary time earnings for full-time adults fell 0.1 per cent from the 3.3 per cent increase recorded in May last year.

“May was when the labour market impacts were greatest, with a higher share of job losses in lower paid jobs and industries, and those which remained had a higher earnings profile,” said Mr Jarvis.

In annual terms, average weekly earnings were 3.2 per cent higher in November 2020 than the same time a year ago.

Women’s annual weekly earnings rose at a faster pace, increasing 3.6 per cent in the year to November, while men’s average ordinary earnings rose 3 per cent.

Earnings rose more in the private sector, up 3.2 per cent, compared to people working in the public sector, who saw a 2.8 per cent increase in the 12 months to November.

“After all the economic shocks and uncertainties we lived through in 2020, it is very welcome news to have more people in full-time jobs,” said Ms Lyons.

“It is also a very positive sign that our economic recovery is underway.”

By business reporter Rachel Pupazzoni (Original ABC Article)

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