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More equitable workplace gender participation would boost Australia’s GDP

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Sex Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Centre for Human Rights Elizabeth Broderick said that the report proved that closing the gap between levels of male and female workplace participation would be a financially astute move for Australia.

“This report not only makes it clear that greater participation of women in the Australian workforce would be a lucrative move for our economy, it reinforces the need for us to respond to the aspirations and desires of women around this country to be in paid work in the manner they choose,” said Commissioner Broderick.

The report highlights that while raising participation is vital, bridging the gulf between historic male and female productivity rates has the potential to boost the level of economic activity by over 20 per cent.

Commissioner Broderick said that the solution did not lie in making it necessary for women to work like men. It lies in both genders being able to work, and be remunerated, equally in the industries in which they wished to work, without being judged by or buying into stereotypes about gender and particular industries. It also lies with the opportunity to work flexibly so that both genders can involve themselves successfully in paid work and care.

“Closing the employment gap includes closing the gender pay gap, so women no longer have to endure the levels of underpayment explained in this report, nor be penalised just because they work in a particular industry,” Commissioner Broderick said. “It also means that we must actively resist stereotypes about which gender works in which industry.”

The report stated that young females were up to five times more likely to have a weekly average income of less than $150 per week, and twice as likely to have an average weekly income of less than $600. It also stated that no industry pays women more than men, and women are overrepresented in health care, social service, education and retail.

“The reason for this drop-off in the economic participation of women is that our employment structures are set up in a manner that forces women to choose between work and care,” Commissioner Broderick said. “More women graduate from tertiary study than men in Australia, so it is clear that women have the desire to be economic participants, but the model is geared toward the traditional pattern of males working longer hours overtime before coming home to their families, so women are necessarily shut out of quality work.”

Commissioner Broderick said the report confirmed that encouragement of a more even spread of gender throughout industries, of equal pay for equal work, and of flexible work practices that allow men and women to more effectively balance work and care, would deliver economic dividends for Australia.

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