WA women are losing the fight to earn the same as men, with the State’s gender pay gap worsening in defiance of the national trend.
As outgoing Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick warned gender equality was “not a battle of the sexes”, figures show the gap between WA men and women earnings rose from 25.3 per cent to 26.1 per cent in the year to May — still by far the worst in the country.
In contrast, the national gender pay gap fell from 18.3 per cent to 17.9 per cent.
Ms Broderick said the WA figures were “deeply concerning”.
“I think what that’s telling us is we need a much deeper investigation into why that’s happening,” she said.
“Even when you strip out for all of the variables what you’re left with is a nub of pay inequality and it can’t be explained away by any other reason than sex discrimination.”
UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat said on average, women in WA were paid $484 a week less than men in full-time work.
“That’s 25 cent less pay for women,” she said.
“When women take on caring roles the pay gap can be entrenched for the rest of their lives, including into retirement through lower superannuation.
“By itself this is wrong and unfair. It also has broader, long-term consequences.” WA has long had the worst gender pay gap in Australia, a fact attributed partly to its reliance on the male-dominated resource and construction industries and a “boys’ club” corporate culture.
Equal Opportunity Commissioner Allanah Lucas said it indicated an imbalance in the way paid and unpaid work was rewarded.
“In the case of women, who constitute the majority of unpaid carers and part-time workers in the community, we can see that they are severely disadvantaged as they get older,” she said.
Earlier, in her last visit to Perth before stepping down next month, Ms Broderick told a Committee for Economic Development of Australian lunch that gender equality was “the unfinished business of the 21st century”.
“Gender equality is not a battle of the sexes, it’s a battle for equality that men and women must fight side by side,” she said.