The pay gap is rising, so why is the government watering down gender reporting requirements? - Women's Agenda

The pay gap is rising, so why is the government watering down gender reporting requirements?

The gender pay gap has risen by 1.4% in the last twelve months, according to new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The data reveals that the gender pay gap has been steadily rising over the last year – it now sits at 18.8%, up from 17.4% in November 2013 and up from 18.1% in May 2014.

As of this week, men who work full time earning $1,587.40 per week, and women earn $1,289.30 per week.

This means, on average, women earn almost $300 less than men, every week.

The pay gap is widening despite the fact that wage growth is slowing. Over the twelve months that the gender pay gap rose 1.4%, wages grew only 2.5%, representing the slowest growth in almost twenty years.

In the same week as this data reveals Australia’s efforts to wind back the pay gap are not working, the government announced it will water down gender reporting requirements for Australian businesses.

The Minister assisting the Minister for Women Senator Michaelia Cash announced yesterday that the government would repeal a number of gender reporting requirements established by the Gillard government.

During her prime ministership, Gillard passed into law the Workplace Gender Equality Act and established the statutory agency the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to enforce the act. Part of WGEA’s role is to collect comprehensive data from all non public sector employers with 100 or more employees each year.

The collection of data from these employers allows the agency to assess which employers need to work harder to achieve gender equality in the workplace, and in precisely which areas they fall behind.

The Agency’s first comprehensive data set was released in November of 2014, and it was disheartening. It detailed a 24.7% pay gap based on full time remuneration across the board, showed that women were consistently missing from management and C-suite roles and that the women who were appointed to those positions were facing pay gaps of up to 45%.

The release of the data was historic, because it was the first time companies had to engage in full transparency and be accountable for their shortcomings on gender equality. One of the most important aspects of this data is that, given it is collected every year, companies are compelled to act in time for the next collection to demonstrate they are making progress.

As WGEA director Helen Conway has said, “there is nowhere to hide”.

Unfortunately, just as these significant developments were being made with data, transparency and accountable on gender equality, the government has decided to intervene.

In Senator Cash’s announcement, she said the government would repeal additional reporting requirements due to be enacted in mid-2015.

“The government will remove the most onerous of Labor’s additional requirements that were due to be introduced on 1 April 2015,” she said.

The requirements that have been scrapped include reporting on job applications, interviews and the hiring process, reporting on CEO salaries, reporting on casual pay at managerial level, reporting on approvals for parental leaves and reporting on the components of total remuneration.

Employers will now only have to report against six gender equality indicators and will not be required to reveal data on two of the most important stages of working life when it comes to genderequality: the very beginning, at the hiring stage, and the culmination of success at work, the CEO stage.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said businesses found the current reporting requirements “overly complex and consuming”.

The WGEA supports the government changes. .

Greens spokesperson for women Larissa Waters has indicated she will take urgent action to challenge the decision,saying the changes will threaten transparency in gender reporting.

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