Gender Pay Gap in Australian Private and Public Sectors Revealed in New Report

By: GWL Team | Monday, 3 July 2023

Recent data released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) highlights a significant gender pay gap in the Australian workforce, with women in the private sector facing larger disparities compared to their counterparts in the Commonwealth public sector. The findings indicate that women in the private sector earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, while the gender equality rate in the public sector stands at 88 cents on the dollar, according to the WGEA's Commonwealth Public Sector Gender Equality Snapshot.

The report reveals a substantial gender pay difference in total compensation, with a gap of 22.8% observed in the private sector and a lower gap of 11.6% within the Commonwealth public sector, based on the data provided by 52 personnel who voluntarily reported information for the WGEA's snapshot. This initial set of insights sheds light on the current state of gender equality in the Commonwealth public sector.

Mary Wooldridge, CEO of WGEA, highlighted that the report's findings indicate positive workplace initiatives aimed at addressing gender equality. However, she emphasized the need for further action, stating, "Policies like publicly-advertised salary levels, target setting, regular employee consultation, and comprehensive access to paid parental leave help the public sector lead in workplace gender equality."

One notable aspect revealed by the data is that many of these initiatives have primarily focused on supporting women, particularly in terms of parental and carer assistance. As a result, men in the public sector are taking paid primary carer leave at a comparable rate to the private sector, with 13.5% of men in the public sector and 13% in the private sector utilizing this benefit.

Wooldridge suggested that changing gender stereotypes that assign women unfair parenting responsibilities, which often hinder their participation in the workforce, could help drive progress towards gender equality.

The report also uncovered that some companies still perceive gender equality as a "women's issue," indicating a need for a broader focus on enhancing the experiences of both men and women in the workplace to achieve meaningful change.

In response to the findings, employers in the Commonwealth's public sector with 100 or more workers will be required to submit a gender equality report to the WGEA starting from September 1 this year. This obligation follows recommendations from the Respect@Work Report. Wooldridge emphasized that this mandatory reporting will enable the WGEA to produce an annual Scorecard, similar to the private sector, to monitor the reduction of the gender pay gap and compare the performance of the Commonwealth's public sector with that of the private sector for the first time.

Wooldridge expressed optimism about the inclusion of comprehensive insights on the Commonwealth public sector, noting, "We have used WGEA's world-class dataset to inform and drive gender equality change for women and men working in the private sector." She further explained that recent legislative reform allows the WGEA to incorporate insights on the Commonwealth public sector into their efforts.

Furthermore, WGEA recently announced that Equal Pay Day for this year will fall on August 25. On average, women have had to work an additional 56 days since the conclusion of the previous fiscal year to earn the same amount as their male counterparts. While there has been a slight decrease from 59 days in 2019 to 56 days in 2023, progress in closing the gender pay gap has been slow.