Australia and UK rank last in global gender pay gap report

The full-time gender pay gap in Australia remains a dismal 14%.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

Australia has scored equal last with the UK in a new global gender pay gap study published by the Global Institute for Women's Leadership at King's Collect London.

The report, Bridging the gap [PDF], ranked gender pay gap reporting systems across 11 indicators in Australia, France, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.

Those indicators included transparency levels around gender pay gap, mandated action plans, enforcement and penalties, whether there is sufficient government guidance and support, and is there accountability enforced through such reports and assessments.

Based on that ranking system, both Australia and the UK scored four out of 11. Spain was the top-ranked nation, scoring eight-and-a-half out of 11, followed by France with a score of eight, South Africa with five-and-a-half, and then Sweden with a score of five.

"All data are publicly available (except, crucially, organisation-level gender pay gaps) and can be found on the interactive Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) DataExplorer … despite this, the gender pay gap has changed little in 40 years," the study said of Australia's ranking.

"Based on the insights of stakeholders interviewed for this research, the key strengths of the Australian regime are its comprehensiveness and transparency; the key weaknesses are the lack of mandated positive action and non-disclosure of organisation-level gender pay gaps."

The report also noted that while many Australian organisations have gender equality policies in place, evidence suggests that many policies are ineffective.
"The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 is essential for equipping advocates and activists with evidence of gender inequality, without which acknowledgement of the problem would be limited. However, the legislation is not sufficient to achieve significant change due to the absence of any mandate for positive action," it concluded. 

Separately, the Australian National University (ANU) authored a companion report, Gender pay gap reporting in Australia [PDF], that outlines a multifaceted approach is needed to address the country's gender pay gap, pointing out that the gender pay gap amongst full-time employees remains at 14%.

"This includes a focus on improving parental leave (particularly for men), affordable childcare, valuing women's work and work that is stereotypically done by women, addressing occupational segregation, and increasing pay transparency," ANU Global Institute for Women's Leadership director Michelle Ryan wrote in her forward.

The report also recommends publishing gender pay gaps of individual organisations, nominating minimum performance standards that require organisations to reduce their gender pay gap, and using sanctions in the Workplace Gender Equality Act against organisations that don't comply with or meet minimum standards.

"Without action, we remain a country that is stuck in low power mode, while others outpace us. We have the opportunity to ramp up support for the economic security of women and we should take it," co-author Dr Anna von Reibnitz said.

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