Australia's Shame: The Widening Gender Gap

Last Updated Sep 27, 2010 3:54 AM EDT

In Australia equal pay for women still seems to be a distant dream, particularly for those who work in the finance industry --- and the situation doesn't seem to be getting any better.
In May 2010 the average ordinary time earnings (full time weekly income without overtime) was $1,342 for a male and $1,106 for a female. That means women were earning 82 percent as much as men, on average. This is the lowest level attained for more than two decades and is part of a significant fall since late 2004.

If we look at total earnings --- the same figure with overtime and bonuses added --- the difference is greater. Women managed just 66 percent of male earnings back in August 1994 and have been slowly falling to just 64 percent in May this year. It makes you wonder how committed Aussies are to equal pay.

Some industry sectors are showing more commitment than others. The public sector seems to have done the most in reducing the gender gap, with transport, public administration and education all showing the smallest differentiation. They are also three of the four sectors that have made the biggest improvement in the last fifteen years (the other is mining).

Finance and professional services sit at the other end of the scale. There seems little excuse for the divide here, unless you're convinced there's something hardwired in men that makes them better at maths. Perhaps that's what the people running our banks think. The average full time earnings for a bloke in finance is $1,755 per week, a noticeable chunk higher than the $1,200 earned by women. Add in overtime, bonuses and the like and the average male sees another 36 percent topping up his income, whereas women will get an extra 1 percent - oh dear!

The best salary for women, on the basis of ordinary time earnings, is in the mining industry. You'll earn $1,587 on average (or at least you did in May), three quarters of the male wage. On the down side, I suspect you might have more difficulty being shortlisted for an interview. Clearly there's a lot of work to be done.

Data source: ABS Average Weekly Earnings, May 2010