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Review of the Gender Pay Gap in Western Australia

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					Review of the Gender Pay Gap in
       Western Australia



           Submission


        Prepared by the
   WA Women’s Advisory Council


            June 2004




                                  1
ABOUT WAC

The Women’s Advisory Council was established in 1983, to provide advice to the
Minister for Women’s Interests on issues of concern to women in Western Australia.

The Terms of Reference outline the functions of the Women’s Advisory Council.
These are to:
   · advise the Minister for Women’s Interests on issues emerging from the
       women’s forums and further develop, refine and revise the goals, strategies
       and indicators from the community consultations; and
   · track progress towards the achievement of goals and report annually to the
       Minister, via the Women’s Report Card.

The current Women’s Advisory Council of Western Australia was appointed by
Cabinet on 5 June 2002 and the membership includes:
   · Ms Arina Aoina (Chair);
   · Ms Clare Ozich;
   · Dr Alison Preston;
   · Ms Jennifer Au Yeong;
   · Ms Pat Kopusar;
   · Ms Maria Osman; and
   · Dr Fionnuala Frost.




                                                                                     2
Introduction
The Women’s Advisory Council (WAC) brings together women from a variety of
different backgrounds to provide independent advice to the Minister on Women’s
Interests on matters affecting and impacting on the status of women in Western
Australia (WA).

In keeping with this objective, this WAC submission presents our comments, position
and recommendations in relation to the gender pay gap in WA. Our submission has
been prepared in response to a call for input into an independent review of the Gender
Pay Gap in WA. The review was announced by the Hon John Kobelke MLA, Minister
for Consumer and Employment Protection on 8 March 2004.

The Terms of Reference for the review are as follows:

      ·   Recent research dealing with the gender pay gap;
      ·   The extent to which principles of pay equity can be enhanced using the State
          Wage Fixing Principles as determined by the WA Industrial Relations
          Commission, or the extent to which the current State Wage Fixing Principles
          are considered to be a barrier to progressing the issue of pay equity;
      ·   Strategies to address the gender pay gap which could be developed on a
          voluntary basis by key industrial parties;
      ·   Possible enhancements to the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993
          which would have a significant impact on the gender pay gap; and
      ·   Training which could help address the gender pay gap issues, including access
          to training and management of work and family issues.

In preparing this submission we have opted to focus our attention on the following
key areas:
    · recent research (and statistics) dealing with the gender pay gap – particularly
       as it relates to WA;
    · the industrial relations system in WA and the extent to which the IR system
       (including the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993) is able to effect
       a change in the gap;
    · areas for further research.



Background Information
The 1999 Review
In April 1999 Geoffrey Crockett and Alison Preston from Curtin University of
Technology reported to DOPLAR on the extent of the earnings gap between men and
women in the WA labour market.1 Using a one per cent sample file from the 1996
Population Census Crockett and Preston found a 26 percentage point gap in the
earnings of WA women and men employed full-time. Subsequent decomposition of
1
    See Crockett, G. & Preston, A. (1999) Pay Equity for Women in Western Australia: Research Report.


                                                                                                   3
the gap revealed that one third of the gap could be accounted for by differences in the
characteristics (eg. level of education, years of work experience, age, occupation and
industry of employment) of men and women in WA. The balance – two-thirds of the
gap – could not be explained by observed differences in the characteristics of women
and men. Crockett and Preston attributed this resultant gap to treatment effects; i.e.
differences in the way the labour market treated men and women, with women
receiving less favourable treatment than men. Examples of the latter might include
lower valuation of women skills, discrimination, career path opportunities etc.

Crockett and Preston also examined the pay gap of women in WA relative to women
nationally. In 1996 WA women employed full-time earned, on average, 3.3 per cent
less than Australian women employed full-time. In an effort to understand the source
of this 3.3 percentage point gap they asked (and researched / modelled) the question:
“if Western Australian women received equivalent national rates of pay (rates of
return) for their characteristics (eg. education, age, experience, industry and
occupation of employment) would there still be a pay gap?” In other words they
sought to identify whether or not there was something ‘different’ (in terms of
characteristics) between the women in WA and women nationally. The results of this
analysis showed that women in WA possessed virtually identical characteristics to
women nationally – suggesting that the presence of a pay differential in WA derived
more from differences in the way characteristics were rewarded (paid for). In other
words, the WA labour market ‘treats’ women differently. In relation to women
nationally this ‘treatment’ effect is to the disadvantage of women in WA. In summary,
Crockett and Preston found (1999: 46) that compared to their national female
counterparts, women in WA:

·   received a lower rate of return on their educational investments;

·   earned less from working overtime;

·   earned less from working in government and/or a metropolitan area;

·   who had dependant children, earned less than working mothers nationally.


So what is it about the WA labour market that causes women in this state to be treated
less favourably than women nationally and less favourably than men in the State.2
Whilst unable to directly locate the cause of the gap Crockett and Preston did show
that between 1991 and 1996 the women in WA improved their overall (average)
levels of education and experience. In the absence of any other development this of
itself would have seen a convergence in the overall WA gender earnings gap. Instead,
as noted above, the outcome was a further widening rather than convergence in the
observed gap.

In addition to observing the fact that between 1991 and 1996 women’s earnings
potential (as related to characteristics such as education, work experience etc.) had

2
  It should be noted that Crockett and Preston (1999) also examined whether or not men in WA were
rewarded at similar rates to their national male counterparts. The analysis showed that the WA labour
market infact treated males more favourably than their national counterparts.


                                                                                                        4
improved, Crockett and Preston also used trend data to plot movements in the gender
pay gap over the 1990s. Their chart, replicated below and extended to the 2003
November quarter, shows that the biggest decline in the gap occurred between
November 1992 and May 1995. Over this period the relative pay gap between men
and women in WA widened by 4.9 percentage points; from 81.3 per cent to 76.4 per
cent (see Figure 1). (Comparisons are based on the average ordinary time earnings of
men and women employed full-time (defined as 35 hours or more per week)).
Sensitivity analysis conducted by Crockett and Preston discounted the hypothesis that
the fall in the relative pay position of WA women over this period could be attributed
to timing effects; i.e. occupational and industrial differences in the timing of actual
wage movements (with the wages in female dominated industries and occupations not
adjusting with the same frequency as those in male dominated industries and
occupations).

In summary, even allowing for a substantial lag in the adjustment of male wages
Crockett and Preston observed a strong downward trend in the relative pay position of
women in 1993 and 1994. Industries where the gender gap widened most included
Health Services, Education and Retail Trade. In Health Services and Education the
gap widened by four percentage points. In Retail Trade the increase (widening) in the
gender wage gap was three percentage points. Health Services, Education and Retail
Trade are important female industries (accounting for 45.8 per cent of the WA female
workforce in 1996).

              The relative pay position of women in WA deteriorated most
              during the early part of the 1990s and has, so far, failed to
              recover. Industries where the gap widened the most included
              Health Services, Education and Retail Trade. Taken together
              these three industries account for around 46 per cent of all jobs
              held by women in WA.



Recent Trends and Outcomes
As at the end of 2003 the observed gender wage gap in the full-time WA labour
market was equal to 22.9 per cent. The corresponding national pay gap was 15.5 per
cent. In dollar terms the figures show that, as at the November quarter 2003, adult
women employed full-time earned an average of $784.80 (not including bonuses or
overtime pay). The corresponding average earnings for men was $1,104.40 –
indicating a gender pay gap of $229.60 per week or $11,939.20 per annum.


              At the end of 2003 the gender pay gap in the full-time labour
              market was equal to 22.9 per cent or $11,939.20 per annum.




                                                                                      5
Figure 1

                                                           Gender Wage Ratio, WA & Australia
                                        Four Quarter Moving Average, Period Ending Aug-84 to Nov-03
                          (seasonally adjusted average weekly ordinary time earnings for adults, employed full-time)

      86.0




      84.0




      82.0

                                                                                                                                                  WA
                                                                                                                                                  Australia
   % 80.0




      78.0




      76.0




      74.0
        Aug.1984 Feb.1986 Aug.1987 Feb.1989 Aug.1990 Feb.1992 Aug.1993 Feb.1995 Aug.1996 Feb.1998 Aug.1999 Feb.2001 Aug.2002

Source: ABS 6302, Tables 2 & 12E




The following figures shed further light on trends and outcomes on the relative pay
position of women in WA. (As before comparisons are based on ordinary weekly
earnings and are restricted to persons employed full-time). At the end of 2003 the
common ratio of the ordinary time earnings of women in WA and women nationally
was 93.1 per cent; in other words, women in WA earned around seven per cent less
than women nationally.

Figure 2
                                                   State / National Wage Relativities by Sex & Year
                                          (Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings, Adults Employed Full-Time)
       106.0
  %
       104.0


       102.0


       100.0


        98.0

                                                                                                                                        women-WA:Australia
        96.0
                                                                                                                                        men-WA:Australia

        94.0


        92.0


        90.0


        88.0


        86.0
            4


                     86



                                7


                                         89



                                                    0


                                                             92



                                                                        3


                                                                                 95



                                                                                            6


                                                                                                     98



                                                                                                                9


                                                                                                                         01



                                                                                                                                    2
          98




                              98




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                     19




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source: ABS 6302.0 (Tables 2 & 12E)




                                                                                                                                                          6
The pattern of lower relative earnings for women in WA is not new and dates back to
the mid 1980s, however, the worrisome feature of this graph is the fact that the gap
has grown, particularly since February 2001. The change is statistically significant
(see Figure 2).


              Women earn significantly less than women nationally even
              though they have similar skills, experience, occupational and
              industrial distributions. This gap has widened since 2001 and is
              currently around 7 per cent in the full-time labour market.


Figure 3 plots the common ratio of the total earnings (ordinary earnings plus overtime
earnings) of all women and men employed in WA (i.e. average total earnings of full-
timers and part-timers taken together). Although men are increasingly moving into
part-time work the majority of part-time workers are women. In WA around 70 per
cent of all persons employed part-time (1-34 hours per week) are women (see Figure
4).

Relative to the national level the incidence of part-time work is slightly higher in WA.
At November 2002, for example, 31.3 per cent of all WA employees worked part-
time. The corresponding national share was 28.6 per cent. By definition, then, there
will be a gap in the earnings of women and men when comparisons are based on total
earnings and not disaggregated by hours of work. As an indicator, however, this
comparator still provides useful information on the economic status and earnings
power of women in the labour market. From data presented in Figure 3 it is apparent
that women in WA earn around 40 per cent less than men in WA. Nationally the gap
corresponding gap is 35 per cent. In both cases this is an enormous difference and
underscores the need to ensure that our labour market structures do not disadvantage
women in terms of career opportunities, earnings potential and, importantly,
economic security both now and in later life.


              The gap in the total earnings (ordinary time plus overtime) of all
              employed men and women (full-time plus part-time) is equal to 40
              per cent in WA; nationally the corresponding gap is 35 per cent.


Given our current institutional structures and the fact that Australia appears strongly
wed to the traditional bread-winner model of a full-time (male worker) and part-time
(female worker) it is particularly important that we ensure that jobs in the part-time
sector are of high quality (eg. in terms of security, career prospects etc.) and well-
paid. The fact that the majority of part-time workers remain dependent on the
industrial relations system (award structures) for movements in their relative pay
further underscores this point.




                                                                                          7
Figure 3
                                                   Gender Pay Ratio in Total Earnings - WA & Australia

     100.0
 %

      95.0


      90.0


      85.0


      80.0

                                                                                                                                                 Western Australia
      75.0
                                                                                                                                                 Australia

      70.0


      65.0


      60.0


      55.0


      50.0
          4


                   86



                              7


                                       89



                                                  0


                                                            92



                                                                       3


                                                                                95



                                                                                           6


                                                                                                     98



                                                                                                                9


                                                                                                                         01



                                                                                                                                    2
        98




                            98




                                                99




                                                                     99




                                                                                         99




                                                                                                              99




                                                                                                                                  00
                   19




                                       19




                                                            19




                                                                                19




                                                                                                    19




                                                                                                                         20
      .1




                          .1




                                              .1




                                                                   .1




                                                                                       .1




                                                                                                            .1




                                                                                                                                .2
                 b.




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                                                                                                                       b.
     g




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                                                                                                                              Au
                                                                        source: 6302




Figure 4

                                     Fig 4: Employment Shares by Sex and Full-Time / Part-Time Status,
                                                         November Quarter 2002

     100%


                                                    21.9                                                                                20.4


     80%


                                                                                            Women-PT                                    24.2
                                                    21.9

     60%                                                                                    Women-FT

                                                      9.3                                   Men-PT                                      8.2


     40%                                                                                    Men-FT




                                                    46.9                                                                                47.2
     20%




       0%
                                                    WA                                                                               Australia

       Source: ABS supercube q6_aug96.srd




                                                                                                                                                                 8
Awards and Agreements

The main Act governing industrial relations regulation in Western Australia has been
the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA). Under Section 51(2) of this Act the WA
Industrial Relations Commission is required to convene a hearing to give
consideration to national wage decisions from the federal jurisdiction. State industrial
agreements registered under the Act must involve unions. In 1993 direct bargaining
(i.e. without union involvement) was introduced under the Workplace Agreements Act
1993 (WA). The Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993 (WA) underpins the
provisions in the Workplace Agreements Act 1993, including the specification of
minimums with respect to rates of pay (Part 3) and leave conditions (Part 4). Until
August 2002 the minimum wage as specified under the Minimum Conditions of
Employment Act was both lower than that set by the industrial tribunals (State and
Federal) and covered a longer span of hours (40 rather than 38). In August 2002 the
Minister for Labour Relations brought these minimum wage specifications into
alignment and undoubtedly contributed to the small improvement in overall gender
earnings gap in 2002, as observed in Figure 3.

So why are these institutional minimum wage provisions so important for part-time
workers in WA? They are important for four reasons:

   ·   Part-time workers are significantly more likely to be found in the award
       stream rather than the bargaining stream. In other words part-time workers are
       dependant on industrial tribunals for cost-of-living adjustments in their wages.
   ·   Part-time workers (the majority of whom are women) are over-represented in
       particular sectors (eg. Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants) – sectors that
       in turn remain heavily dependent on the award system for the determination of
       pay and conditions. (In 2002 61.2 per cent of employees in this sector saw
       their wages determined by an Award only (see Table 1)).
   ·   Small firms (i.e. less than 50 employees) are more likely to use the award
       system than larger firms. There is an over-representation of small firms in the
       WA labour market relative to the national average.
   ·   Historically the WA labour market has been more dependent on the State
       industrial jurisdiction rather than the Federal. The closer alignment of the
       Minimum Conditions of Employment Act and the adult minimum wage in the
       Federal jurisdiction thus reduces or helps minimise any gap arising from this
       source.

Table 1: Award & Agreement Coverage in Select Areas, May 2002
                             WA                             Australia
                  Award Only      Collective      Award Only        Collective
                                 Agreement                          Agreement
% covered by
Total                15.0            36.2             20.5            38.2
 Women – FT                                           15.8            41.1
 Women - PT                                           36.9            37.3
 Men – FT                                             11.4            38.0
 Men – PT                                             31.7            34.4


                                                                                      9
Award & Agreement Coverage by Industry
Retail Trade                                                      34.2
                                                                  61.2
Accommodation
Café         &
Restaurants
Health       &                                                    30.3
Community
Services
Education                                                         7.8
Manufacturing                                                     12.8
Source: ABS Employee Earnings and Hours Survey, May 2002 (Cat. No. 6306.0)

In the above our focus has mostly been on the adult minimum wage as specified by
the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), the WA Industrial Relations
Commission (WAIRC) and the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act. However, it
has to be remembered that aside from specifying the adult minimum wage the
industrial tribunals, through the award system, also specify minimum rates of pay for
a range of occupational classifications. Pay disparities may, thus, emanate from State /
Federal differences in award rates for different occupational classifications.

The fact that there was such a rapid and significant deterioration in the relative pay
position of WA women between 1993 and 1994 – and that the gap grew most in
industries such as Health, Education and Retail Trade – suggests that further insight
into the causes of today’s gap may be gained from more detailed analysis of specific
trends in these particular labour markets. It is beyond the scope of this submission to
undertake such an analysis, although preliminary insight may be obtained from a
comparative analysis of the earnings data from the 2001 census. Table 2 reports on
such an analysis.

Table 2: Pay Ratios of Select Occupations, 2001
                          Teachers      Registered   Legal     Child-     Sales        Cleaners
                          (Secondary    Nurses       Profs     Care       Assistants
                          School)                              Workers
Gender Wage Ratio – WA
 Works 16-24 hrs       82.9%     78.1%               63.0%      109.8%       94.2%      94.6%
 Works 35-39 hrs       88.7%     86.0%               101.8%     54.4%        88.6%      86.9%
 Total hours           83.5%     75.7%               87.4%       77.7%       70.6%      71.5%
Gender Wage Ratio – Australia
 Works 16-24 hrs       85.2%     84.2%                80.9%     100.7%       97.7%      90.8%
 Works 35-39 hrs       92.3%     88.6%                90.5%      84.5%       88.4%      90.7%
 Total hrs             86.3%     79.7%                88.2%     103.9%       71.0%      70.5%
Wage Ratio of WA & Australian Women
 Works 16-24 hrs       92.5%     94.4%                 96.7%      94.0%       97.4%       92.3%
 Works 35-39 hrs       89.5%     96.0%                 107.0% 104.8%          98.3%       92.4%
 Total hrs             90.5%     97.2%                 97.1%     100.0%       97.0%       93.1%
Source: Unpublished 2001 Census data. Sample restricted to employed persons. Earnings measures
income from all sources.




                                                                                              10
Most insight can probably gained from an analysis of the pay relativities of women in
WA and women in Australia, by occupation. (By comparing women with women we
overcome differences in pay related characteristics such as qualifications, work
experience, treatment effects, occupation and industry of employment). The data in
Table 2 show, for example, that amongst Secondary School Teachers, the earnings of
women in WA are 90.5 per cent of the earnings of women nationally. In other words
there is an earnings gap of 9.5 per cent. Women who are Registered Nurses (RN) also
earn less than women RNs nationally; here the gap equates to 2.8 per cent. The
earnings gap amongst women Cleaners in WA and Australia is also large, equal to 6.9
per cent.


Whilst it remains beyond the scope of this submission to provide a detailed analysis of
developments within this select occupational groups further insight into the effects of
pay relativities and movements may be drawn from Figure 5. Figure 5 plots the
relative pay position of select occupational groups (not disaggregated by gender or
state of enumeration). It is apparent from this graph that, nationally, there has been a
significant decline in the relative pay position of a number of unskilled and semi-
skilled groups. Amongst professionals it is also apparent that Police, Nurses and
Teachers have also, since 1993, seen a deterioration in their relative pay position.

Figure 5
                           Pay Position of Select Occupations (Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings),
                                 Benchmarked to the All Occupational Average, May-86 to May-00

     150.0
 %

     140.0


     130.0


     120.0                                                                                               school teachers
                                                                                                         computing professionls
                                                                                                         nursing professional
     110.0                                                                                               police officer
                                                                                                         clothing tradesperson
     100.0                                                                                               hairdressers
                                                                                                         sales assistants
                                                                                                         cleaners
      90.0                                                                                               total all occupations


      80.0


      70.0


      60.0
             1986   1987    1988   1989   1990   1991   1992   1993   1994   1995   1996   1998   2000

      Source: ABS 6306




Although a relatively high proportion of these groups will be covered by collective
agreements, the fact that they operate within a monopsonistic labour market (i.e.
where there is one main buyer of their labour – that being the government) does not
auger well for their bargaining power (not withstanding impending shortages of
labour within these sectors). Fiscal pressures will have also contributed to a fall in the
relative income levels of these groups since police, teachers and nurses are major
employment categories within the State payroll. Accordingly small increase in their
salary will be hard to manage where budgets are under pressure since they will have a
disproportionate effect on the overall wage bill of the State governments.


                                                                                                                            11
              Monopsonistic employment structures may be serving to hold
              down the relative wages of particular groups such as nursing,
              teaching and police and thus exacerbating the problem of gender
              wage inequality in Western Australia




IR System & Pay Equity
In this section we comment on how pay equity may be enhanced through amendments
to the industrial relations system including the Minimum Conditions of Employment
Act 1993.

Wage Fixing Principles

The Industrial Relations Act 1979 (the Act) combined with the Wage Fixing
Principles currently produce a barrier to enhancing pay equity outcomes. The only
reference in the Act to pay equity issues is at section 6(ac) which provides for the
object of “equal remuneration for work of equal value.” This object was put in the Act
in 2002. Despite this equal remuneration object, the Western Australian Industrial
Relations Commission (the Commission) has no power to consider issues of equal
remuneration when registering enterprise bargaining agreements or individual
contracts (Employer-Employee Agreement) under the Act. There is some scope for
equal remuneration issues to be raised in respect of awards. Awards are important
with resect to pay equity as underpinning enterprise bargaining and individual
agreements and more significantly as shown above women are more likely to be
dependant on awards for their wage outcomes.

When making or varying awards the Commission must have regard for the Wage
Fixing Principles which in effect circumscribe the circumstances under which awards
can be made or varied, in particular wage rates. Wage rates in awards are increased as
a result of the annual national and state wage decisions but other increases to award
wages are restricted by the Wage Fixing Principles. The Wage Fixing Principles have
their origins in the National Wages Decisions. Under the Act when the Australian
Industrial Relations Commission brings down a National Wage Decision the
Commission is obliged to consider the decision and decide whether to adopt the
decision in WA. Prior to the 2002 amendments to the Act, the Commission could
either wholly accept or reject the National Wage Decision. The Wage Fixing
Principles are developed by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission when
considering the national industrial relations system and the Federal Workplace
Relations Act 1996, a very different piece of legislation to the WA Act.

There are a number of ways the Wage Fixing Principles could potentially address
issues of pay equity but history has shown the Wage Fixing Principles and the
Commission’s approach to the Wage Fixing Principles are not suited to addressing
issues of pay equity. There is for example the Work Value Principle which allows the
Commission the reassess the value of work being performed and the relative wages.
However, the Work Value Principle as it is not developed with pay equity issues in


                                                                                    12
mind. Attempts to use the Work Value Principle to address pay equity issues have not
been successful in the past. The other Wage Fixing Principle which could be used is
the Special Cases Principle which gives the Commission some discretion to allow
matters that do not fit within the other Principles. However, to bring a pay equity case
under this Principle will require a significant case with the necessary resources with a
small likelihood of success given the only reference in the Act to pay equity is in
section 6(ac) and there is no other guidance for the Commission on how to adequately
deal with pay equity matters.

Both NSW and Queensland have Equal Remuneration Principles to guide their
respective Industrial Relations Commissions on how to adequately address pay
equity. Since the 2002 amendments to the Act the Commission has had the ability to
modify the Wage Fixing Principles. However, in the 2003 State Wage Case it decided
it did not have power under the relevant section of the Act to consider an Equal
Remuneration Principle when considering the National Wage Decision.

The provisions of the NSW and Queensland Industrial Relations Acts are of course
different to the WA Act. They both have references to pay equity which go well
beyond the WA Act. The Equal Remuneration Principle adopted by the NSW
Industrial Relations Commission sits within the NSW Wage Fixing Principles and is
limited to award matters and is considered quite restrictive. The Queensland Equal
Remuneration Principle on the other hand applies to both awards and agreements and
is much broader in scope. The Queensland Act places requirements on the
Queensland Commission to ensure equal remuneration in awards and agreements.

For pay equity in WA to be adequately addressed the Industrial Relations Act must
contain more specific means of addressing pay equity as a matter of substance facing
the industrial relations system today. The current Act and the Wage Fixing Principles
form a barrier to pay equity being adequately addressed within the industrial relations
system. At the very least there should be some specific means of bringing pay equity
matters before the Commission and specific guidelines for the matters the
Commission is to have regard for when considering pay equity issues. The
Queensland model provides a good starting point for WA to consider.

Ensuring there is an adequate mechanism for the industrial relations system to address
pay equity is an important first step. However, that mechanism needs to be able to be
utilised. Resources must be made available for female wage rates which are
undervalued on a gender basis to be reviewed pursuant to whichever mechanism is
available. The disastrous pay equity problem in WA will not be adequately addressed
merely by amending the legislation, although that is essential. Wages and conditions
for female workers must actually be improved and that will require a commitment of
resources.


              Ensuring there is an adequate mechanism for the industrial
              relations system to address pay equity is an important first step.
              However, that mechanism needs to be able to be utilised.




                                                                                     13
Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993

The Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993 (MCE Act) provides for minimum
employment standards that apply to all employees in WA. There are a number of
amendments that could be made to the MCE Act to enhance employment conditions
for women which would impact favourably on pay equity outcomes.

One of the factors that go towards pay inequities is the pressures and career
interruptions that result from women being primary child carers. The issues
surrounding the problems of the work/life balance are well known. The MCE Act
currently provides for a entitlement of 12 months unpaid parental leave for permanent
employees. The provisions of paid parental leave would be of enormous benefit for
women achieving a better work/life balance and continuing careers. It is now well
established that a certain proportion of women do move from full time to part time
work after having children. It also becoming clear that part time work pays less and
there is less chances for significant career development. The right to return from
parental leave on a part time basis would also be of assistance to women wishing to
continue in employment after having children and continuing their previous
employment and career path.

There needs also to be recognition of the need for genuine flexibility for employees
for the purposes of family responsibilities. For example, matters such as leave for
family emergencies and the ability to utilise leave for school holidays. Such measures
go towards retaining women in the workforce and in permanent well paid forms of
employment. Attention to the problems of accessing affordable childcare is also
essential to addressing the broader issues of women in the workforce including pay
equity.

The extension of parental leave to long term casual employees would also benefit
women. The majority of casual employees are women and there are clear trends that
more and more casual employees are working for the same employer for a number of
years and are working systemic and consistent hours. In other words casual work is
beginning to look a lot like permanent employment without the benefits such as leave
entitlement. One of the main issues with casual work in the lack of job security.
Parental leave for long term casuals would to a certain extent address this issue for
increasing numbers of women. Both the Federal and Queensland jurisdictions have
parental leave for long term casuals.

Other measures concerning enhancing casual employment such as increasing the
casual loading to at least 25% and introducing the ability for long term casual workers
to convert to permanent employment would be of immense benefit to large numbers
of particularly vulnerable women workers in WA.


              Given the majority of casual employees are women,
              strengthening entitlements for casual employees will enhance
              women’s position in the workforce, including pay equity
              outcomes.



                                                                                    14
Recommendations & Areas for Further Research
According to the recently released Women’s Report Card: Measuring Women’s
Progress women seek

         Fair, flexible and supportive workplaces where women are recognised for
         their contributions, skills and diversity in all occupations and have equal
         opportunities for career development and advancement.
                                                       (Women’s Report Card: 2004: 10)

Given the high proportion of working women located in the part-time labour market
and the fact that jobs in this labour market remain highly dependent on industrial
tribunals for the determination of their pay and employment conditions, it is therefore
critical that, in any analysis of the gender pay gap, research focuses on the quality of
part-time jobs. By quality we include (and are not limited to):

   ·   Equal remuneration – not just in terms of base salary but also overall
       remuneration packages including salary sacrificing components (and
       eligibility), health packages, car, superannuation (including types of schemes
       part-timers are eligible for relative to schemes full-timers are eligible for).
   ·   Opportunities for part-time work: part-time work remains the dominant way in
       which families (women) in Australia seek to balance work and family
       responsibilities. However, part-time work remains highly segmented into
       particular job sectors. There are, for example, limited part-time employment
       opportunities in male dominated sectors such as police, computing,
       engineering, law etc. Women pursuing a career in these particular sectors thus
       face an additional hurdle when seeking to have a family and maintain their
       career track.
   ·   Opportunities for training and career advancement whilst engaged in part-time
       work.

Further research into why women in WA are paid less than men in WA and less than
women in Australia might fruitfully examine the extent to which women are treated
less favourably in this state in terms of remuneration packages, opportunities for part-
time work in professional and non-traditional jobs and opportunities for career
progression whilst in part-time work.

We also recommend that future research in this area:

   ·   Seek to further explain and account for the significant and large decline in the
       pay position of women in WA over the period 1993 and 1994.
   ·   Seek to explain why the pay position of women in WA relative to women
       nationally has significantly declined in recent years.
   ·   Examine the potential effect of monopsonistic market structures in Western
       Australia on the pay position of nurses, teachers, police and thus the overall
       gender pay gap.
   ·   Engage in more detailed case study research of select occupations – eg. RNs,
       teachers, cleaners, sales assistant and some professional groups as a way of


                                                                                      15
       more clearly understanding what has happened to the relative pay position of
       these groups.




Conclusion

The WAC, in this submission, has not covered all issues that relate to pay equity. We
have focused on some key issues including specific research relating to the pay gap in
WA and some means by which the industrial relations system can be improved to
enhance pay equity for women in WA. The pay equity situation in WA is such that
the government must act to address all the issues.

This submission has considered pay equity for women in a general sense. There is of
course diversity among women and different women will have different pay equity
issues. For example, indigenous women may be more concerned about unemployment
and underemployment than the other issues raised above. We recognise that the terms
of reference are not directed towards these diversity issues. However, we would urge
that the Review appreciates that pay equity is complex for a number of reasons not the
least of which is the diversity among women and that the government is urged to
consider this diversity when developing a proposal to address the pay equity problem
in WA.




Arina Aonia
Chairperson
Women’s Advisory Council




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Description: Review of the Gender Pay Gap in Western Australia