Explainer: what is the gender pay gap?

9 August 2017

What are the causes of Australia's gender pay gap? Dr Elizabeth Hill, expert in work and family policy from the Department of Political Economy, explains.

In this video produced in association with Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Elizabeth Hill explains the gender pay gap: what it is, how big it is and why we should fix it.

Chair of the University’s Department of Political Economy, Dr Hill has published research on gender, work and care in both developed and emerging economies. Dr Hill is co-convenor of the Australian Work and Family Policy Roundtable and a member of the University’s Women, Work and Leadership Research Group.

What is the gender pay gap?

“The Gender Pay Gap refers to the difference in wages earned between women and men,” Dr Hill explains. “It is calculated using Australian Bureau of Statistics’ average weekly full-time earnings data.”

How big is the gender pay gap in Australia?

“For the past two decades the gender pay gap has been stuck between 15 and 19 percent. In early 2017 it was 16 percent,” Dr Hill says.

Woman and man working on their laptops.

“This means the average full-time wage earned by women was 16 percent lower than that earned by men, which is approximately $260 less each week.”

“There are big differences in the gender pay gap across industry groups. The smallest is a 7 percent gap for employees in Public Administration and Safety – those working in jobs like local government or the police force. But in Financial and Insurance Services the gap widens to 31 percent.”

Why does the gender pay gap matter?

"Young Australian women are now more highly educated than their male peers and this should be rewarded in employment and wages,” says Dr Hill.

“But expectations about women’s responsibilities in the home and the types of jobs that are most suitable mean they do not participate in the workforce on equal terms with men.” 

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