Women still second best in pay stakes

THREE decades after the equality push of the 1970s, women’s pay is still lagging behind that of their male colleagues, particularly in WA.

A paper, Why are women and men still paid differently?  by Curtin Graduate School of Business PhD student Christine Short found that the battle to secure equal pay would need to be fought continuously.

Ms Short found a 15 per cent gap between male and female earnings still existed in Australia. However, she found the gap in WA was 22 per cent.

“Women’s pay continues to be undervalued 30 years after the Australian Industrial Relations Commission brought down its equal pay for work of equal value in 1972”, she says.

“While Australia-wide enterprise bargaining appears to be a significant cause of continuing pay equity, in WA it appears that both awards and enterprise bargaining agreements are causing worse pay equity.”

Ms Short says enterprise bargaining has been a major concern for women’s pay because evidence showed that when such agreements did exist for women in WA, the women were usually much worse off than men.

Ms Short says that, while work needs to be done around Australia, it’s particularly the case in WA, because although the State Government has a policy platform supporting equal pay, no moves have been made despite WA having the largest earnings gap between men and women.

There have been no studies into what the Australian and WA Industrial Relations Commissions have been doing with women’s pay during the 1990s, she says.

However, Ms Short says the WA Government’s changes to the WA minimum wage and sections of its new industrial relations laws will help.

Some of the law changes include:

p abolishing WA workplace agreements that disproportionately disadvantaged women;

p including new objectives of equity and efficiency that can be implemented by the WAIRC; and

p introducing employment agreements with strict no disadvantage tests.

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