National gender pay gap analysis paints bleak picture for women

The gender pay gap is about $40,000 a year for people aged 45 to 65, while women who reach senior executive roles are taking home nearly $100,000 less per year on average than their male counterparts.

An Australia-wide analysis of the gender pay gap by the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency paints a bleak picture of the state of gender equality in the private sector, publishing new data that shows women are still earning consistently less than men in every age bracket.

The agency’s new data report, called Wages and Ages: Mapping the Gender Pay Gap by Age, shows the pay gap widens substantially when women turn 35, with women earning $7.78 for every $10 earned by their male counterparts. The disparity worsens over the next 20 years, with a slight improvement once women turn 65, but never reaching parity.

If these trends continue, Millennial women in the workforce will earn just 70 per cent of men’s earnings by the time they reach age 45.

A combination of factors is driving the pay disparity, the agency’s director, Mary Wooldridge said. Many low-paying jobs in the care and education sectors are dominated by women, but this only contributes to about 20 per cent of the pay gap problem, the agency has found. The bigger drivers are discrimination and the fact that women spend more time outside the workforce to care for children and family.

Better paid jobs are largely reserved for full-time roles, but fewer than half of women work full-time across all age groups, the data reveals. Over 90 per cent of managerial roles are full-time.

Wooldridge said while some women choose to cut down their work hours because it suits them, most women feel they have no alternative.

“In many instances, it’s not a genuine choice,” she said. “They’re constrained because an organisation may not be prepared for them to work part-time and return to the workforce, or they may not be able to access childcare and can’t exercise the choice to return to work.

“What we’re saying is in order to be able to utilise the talents of women, we need to provide as much support as possible for them return to work flexibly … and to genuinely think about part-time roles in senior management.”

The former Victorian Liberal MP served as mental health and women’s minister in the Baillieu-Napthine government and has called for her party to consider gender quotas. She is now demanding that Australian companies commit to gender-based targets and publicly report their data.

“Companies do need to analyse where the pay gaps are, they need to be setting targets to address them and they need to be consistently seeing how they’re performing and reporting to their boards about that,” she said.

“That’s how things change within organisations and that will be a better outcome for the men who work there and for the organisation as well.”

The federal Labor government’s election agenda to increase childcare subsidies for nearly all Australians will seek to address the country’s gaping gender pay gap, by lifting the childcare subsidy rate to 90 per cent for the first child in care.

The Fair Work Commission’s decision to raise the national minimum wage by 5.2 per cent will also benefit the lowest-paid jobs, which are largely worked by women.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency data, taken from more than 3 million Australian employees, shows women never out-earn their male colleagues across all age groups, but the gap is most significant when people reach their peak earning capacity, between the ages of 45 and 64.

In this generation bracket, the gender pay gap is about 40 per cent, or $41,000 a year, and more than six in 10 managers are men.

This is in large part due to the most highly paid jobs being reserved for full-time workers, yet the data shows that at no stage were more than half of women working full-time.

Women who take on senior or chief executive roles at 55 and over still face a large earnings gap, taking home about $93,000 per year less on average than their male counterparts.

Wooldridge said the pay gap within senior leadership teams was further evidence of ingrained bias against women. “I think that’s a reflection of the fact that often, we see that men and women are not valued equally. ”

Wooldridge said flexible working options such as job-share arrangements were crucial to ensuring women were promoted to senior roles. This was among a suite of policies needed to improve the gender pay gap, including gender-neutral paid parental leave and assisting access to affordable childcare through onsite provision or financial support.

She also warned companies to watch out for a “bias towards presenteeism”, which sees job promotions go towards those more regularly working in the office rather than at home, which was more commonly men.

Read the full report here

This article has been prepared for information purposes only and is not legal advice. For legal advice regarding your specific circumstances, please contact Workplace Resolutions Law directly on (03) 5499 6131 or by email at

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