Investing in women could generate $111 billion annually

$111 billion can be generated each year by cutting gender inequality at work in half according to a new report, Delivering Respect for Women at Work, released today by ACTU ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit.

The report explains that another 893,000 women would be in the workforce if they could participate at the same rate as men. Even if only half of that number were supported to work, they would earn an additional $26 billion each year.

Due to the gender pay gap, men earn $472 more each week than women. If that gap were cut in half, women would take home an additional $85 billion. With the wage and participation gap cut in half, $111 billion would be generated for women’s economic security and our national income.

The barriers that prevent it are the important and unequal burden of caring for women, the undervaluing of their work and discrimination and workplace harassment. To move forward in removing these barriers, the report makes 14 recommendations. These include:

  1. Increase paid parental leave from 18 to 26 weeks and chart a path to raise it to 52 weeks by 2030. Leave should be offered on a shared basis between parents, with incentives to drive equitable parenting. Retirement must be paid on all licenses.
  2. Take steps to progressively make early childhood education and care free and accessible. Childcare subsidy increases scheduled for July 1, 2023 should be brought forward to January 1, 2023 to ease cost-of-living pressures on families and allow men to fill critical skills shortages.
  3. Establish a National Care Pact to address the crisis facing workers in the care economy, including care for the elderly, early childhood care and education, disability support and other social services. The care compact should make the care economy a great place to work by addressing pay, job security, workloads, skills and career progression, and occupational health and safety.
  4. Introducing multi-employer bargaining which will also increase bargaining access for many feminized industries such as childcare, eldercare and cleaning, where lack of access to business bargaining has suppressed wages.
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Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

“Australia has the second worst government-funded paid parental leave scheme in the developed world. In 2022, women should not have to give up having a family and men should not lose the opportunity to participate in raising their children because paid parental leave is insufficient.

“Early childhood education and care will pay for themselves if women can work and pay taxes. Bringing it forward and eventually releasing it should be a no-brainer.

“Multi-employer bargaining would give millions of workers, most of them women, meaningful access to bargaining for the first time. It will be a boost for wage growth in general, but especially for feminized industries where the current system has systematically suppressed wages.

“Australia can generate $111 billion by increasing women’s participation in the workforce. We can fix the skills shortage if we take action to help women get good-paying and rewarding jobs and careers. There may be no greater measure to boost national productivity and economic growth than to provide respect and equality for women at work.

“The care economy must be center stage at the Jobs Summit. Right now, women are leaving the industry en masse, but this sector could be a major source of secure, well-paying jobs in the future. A National Care Pact can address the crisis of overwork, low wages, job insecurity, lack of training, and unsafe workplaces that these workers face.”

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