Australia: Progress for Women in the Workplace

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By Rick Vollmar

Aug. 19—“Australia is making meaningful progress when it comes to gender equality in the workplace,” according to an Aug. 13 media release from Michaelia Cash, the minister assisting the prime minister for women.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the gender pay gap has narrowed to 17.9 percent and Australian women are now more engaged with the labor market than ever before.

“The participation rate for women aged between 15 and 64 rose to 71.5 percent in July—this is the highest level in Australia’s history,” Minister Cash said. “Lifting women’s workforce participation is a cornerstone of this government’s reform agenda.”

“We know that increasing women’s workforce participation by just 6 percent could add $25 billion or approximately 1 percent to Australia’s GDP,” Cash said, and “it is imperative for both social and economic outcomes that we realize this potential.”

Gains Made, But More to Do

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's coalition government is committed to the G20 goal of reducing the gap between men's and women’s workforce participation by 25 percent by 2025, the release said, and Minister Cash has called it “vital” that women be allowed to develop the skills and be given the support and incentives to work.

“For so many Australian women, the economic security that comes with having a decent job leads to higher retirement incomes and less vulnerability to poverty, homelessness and family violence,” Cash said. “To boost women’s workforce participation, we are focused on delivering accessible, affordable and flexible child care, supporting women out of the workplace to become job-ready and supporting small business to generate more jobs.”

Nevertheless, more work needs to be done to lift women’s workforce participation, Minister Cash said.

“Last week I hosted a tax roundtable in Sydney with Australian business leaders to discuss how tax reform can drive changes to our tax system and lead to practical outcomes for Australian women’s employment,” Cash said. “There are still 2.3 million Australian women aged 15 to 64 not participating in the labor force, and we are obligated to ensure we remove the barriers that prevent these women from engaging in the workforce.”

“Government cannot work in isolation to increase women’s employment,” Cash continued, “and so we will continue to work with the private sector to realize the economic benefits of more women in the workforce.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

The government media release is available at http://minister.women.gov.au/media/2015-08-13/gender-pay-gap-narrows-and-participation-grows.

For more information on Australian HR law and regulation, see the Australia primer.