22 years to close the pay gap but at least women are doing less unpaid work

- February 11, 2022 3 MIN READ
women pay gap

The pandemic has delivered an opportunity to deliver economic equality for women according to the findings of the annual Financy Women’s Index.

The timeframe to economic gender equality now stands at 59 years, down from a revised 76 years based on the worst-performing area – unpaid work.

Balance in women’s paid and unpaid work shifts

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, author of the Financy Women’s Index, said that 2022 presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Australia to consolidate the gains of 2021 towards economic gender equality.

“The significant reduction in the timeframes to equality has surprised the FWX Advisory Board because we expected that the unpaid workloads of women had probably increased as a result of home-schooling and working from home during the lockdowns,” said Hartge-Hazelman.

“But in fact, women appear to have been working more than ever in paid employment, although for less financial reward than men.

“While it is encouraging to see a greater balance in paid and unpaid work between women and men, if this is to be a long-term a structural shift then it is vital that we also see female workforce earnings keep up, especially in those hard-hit services areas like Health,” Hartge-Hazelman explained.

The impact of flexible work

The FWX finished 1.6 per cent higher at 72.3 points compared to 71.2 points in December 2020, aided by a closing of the gender gaps in employment, ASX 200 board positions and unpaid work.

Hartge-Hazelman suggests that more flexible work arrangements and a better division of unpaid labour has allowed women to spend less time on unpaid work overall, whilst men are spending slightly more of their overall time in doing household chores and caregiving.

Still, unpaid work continues to be women’s work

Rhiannon Yetsenga, an economist at Deloitte Access Economics, said the unpaid work index remains one the most important indicators of women’s progress, with the division of domestic tasks closely associated with gender norms.

“The pandemic and associated lockdowns have shown a path towards greater gender equality through more flexible working, but further cultural and structural change is required if we want to enable progress beyond the modest improvements seen this quarter,” said Yetsenga.

Nicki Hutley independent economist said she is “optimistic” that changes in the unpaid work balance will stick after the pandemic passes.

“There is still a lot of work to do and it’s concerning that some areas have worsened, especially the gap in graduate salaries. A gap right from the start tends to expand over the years and sets up a lifetime of inequality,” she said.

What about the pay gap?

Despite the annual FWX improvement, a disappointing December quarter weighed on the result, with a 2.2 per cent drop driven by a widening in the gender pay gap (14.2 per cent).

“It’s frustrating to learn that, despite living in a wealthy, well-educated society in the 21st century, the Financy Women’s Index estimates it will take close to 22 years to close the gender pay gap,” said Effie Zahos, independent director InvestSMART.

“Right now, Australia is facing a skills shortage, and there may never be a better time for women to exercise their workplace clout and be paid what they are worth,” said  Zahos.

Other key findings on women’s economic progress:

  • the gender gap in underemployment is now the smallest it has ever been, reflecting that strong labour market conditions combined with greater work flexibility during the pandemic has improved employment opportunities for Australian women.
  • there was also an improvement in the number of monthly hours worked by women (6 per cent gain versus a 5 per cent gain for men in the December quarter).
  • the number of women on ASX 200 boards increased over the latest quarter to 34.5 per cent, as of January 31, according to the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

This post first appeared on Kochie’s Business Builders. You can read the original here.

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