Last week I looked at the real gender pay gap – the difference between what men and women get paid in Australia and showed that we should be talking about a 52% pay gap, not 18%
This week I’m going to look at the hours worked and what effect that has on average earnings.
We know that women are more likely to work part time than men, in fact 71% of people working part-time are female.
This does not, however, explain why women are paid less than men; it’s not just a simple matter of earning less money because they are working fewer hours.
The average weekly cash earnings for men working part time is $686, for women it’s $646. That’s only a 6% difference, so surely that’s not too big a deal?
Well, no. Until you look at what working part time means and how the number of hours affects the weekly earnings for men and women.
Part time employment, for the purposes of the data above, means anyone employed to work less than 35 hours per week. Someone who does 3 hours a week at the local yogurt shop has the same representation in the dataset as account working 34 hours a week. So it’s difficult to tell from this data how part time work affects earnings.
The ABS supplies another dataset that describes the number of hours worked by men and women, the graph below shows the number of males and females who work within each range of hours per week. Looking at the number of people working part-time (less than 35 hours) and how many hours a week they work, it’s pretty clear that there are not just more women working part-time, but that they are working more hours than men.
And yet men working part-time are paid more. They’re making more money for fewer hours work.
There’s a few other notable aspects of the part-time employees data.
The age of the part-time workers and the gender disparity in pay that changes as employees age. This slightly over-complicated looking graph shows the percentage of total men (red line) and total women (blue line) in each age bracket who work part time. The dotted green line shows the gender pay gap for each age group.
Basically what it’s saying, is the percentage of men working part-time decreases until men are in their mid-50s. The percentage of women working part time decreases until women are in their late 20s or early thirties, and continues to increase from there.
The gender pay gap increases significantly between the ages of 24 and 45, drops slightly for the 45 to 55 year old and then increases again for the over 65s.
It seems likely that the reason for this is children. Women are more likely than men to reduce working hours when they have children. The data seems to indicate that many women never return to full time work. This not only affects their ability to increase income over time, but it would have flow on effects on their superannuation and long term security.
Men, are less likely to work part-time until they’re close to retirement age, earn more significantly money when they do work part-time. And we’ve already seen that they work fewer hours for it.
This is a difficult one to point to a single piece of data and say “that right there is your problem”. Part-time work varies so much that there’s no one piece of data to sensibly compare to another. The only way to get a clear sense of how part time work is gendering both income and lifestyle is to look at the overall picture. Which unsurprisingly point to the fact that women are sacrificing income to raise children and men are sacrificing with their children to earn income.
The gendered nature of this is a loss to both men and women. This is where the changes need to be pushed. Not just in getting better access to long term financial security for women, but in changing the social forces that keep men working full time after having children.
Achieving some level of balance in sharing work and childrearing would have significant benefits for everyone involved, and it is probably the only way we will achieve anything close to gender parity in family connections as well as earning potential.
Surely that’s a better outcome for everyone?
You may have read my introductory piece, in which I described the series of articles Women’s Agenda have planned for the next few months. We are going to take an in-depth look at the two most significant issues disadvantaging women in Australia – poverty and violence. This is the first article in this series, and we’re starting with the gender pay gap.
As I said in the introductory piece, we at Women’s Agenda very much want this series to be a collaborative exercise. So I am making all the spreadsheets including all my calculations, available for download. I leave the original data sheet alone and either copy or link in subsequent sheets for the calculations. I also include the ABS reference numbers and links to the download site.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you find something more in this data that you think should be included. If there are other data sets on the ABS site that I haven’t mentioned yet, you can be very sure that I will get to them later.