Mind the gap: Gender pay gap biggest in 20 years

Australia’s gender pay gap is at 18.2%, its highest point in 20 years. Changing the way in which men and women work could help to reduce the disparity, according to one economist.

Mind the gap: Gender pay gap biggest in 20 years
equality seems to be slipping further out of reach, with Australia’s gender pay gap at 18.2% - the highest point for the past two decades.

According to figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, that number is up from 17.5% in May last year.

And it’s a significant jump from 10 years ago, when the gap was reported as being 14.9%, according to Women’s Agenda.

Part of the solution in redressing the balance may lie in changing the way in which jobs are structured, according to Harvard University’s Henry Lee professor of economics, Claudia Goldin.

In a piece of research entitled A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter, Goldin said that the solution to equality in the labour market must involve changes, “in particular how jobs are structured and remunerated to enhance temporal flexibility”.

The pay gap is at its widest in industries like law, finance and medicine, which often require long hours, regular hours and work at specific times, news.com.au reported.

That focus on employees willing to put in the long hours is part of the problem, according to Goldin.

“The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who laboured long hours and worked particular hours.

“Such change has taken off in various sectors, such as technology, science and health, but is less apparent in the corporate, financial and legal worlds.”

For women structuring their working life around family obligations, being able to put in long hours and be constantly available is not practical.

“A flexible schedule often comes at a high price, particularly in the corporate, financial, and legal worlds,” said Goldin.

“Not all positions can be changed. There will always be 24/7 positions with on-call, all-the-time employees and managers, including many CEOs, trial lawyers, merger and acquisition bankers, surgeons and the US Secretary of State. But, that said, the list of positions that can be changed is considerable.”

She pointed out that greater flexibility was not just a “woman’s issue” and that all workers would benefit.

Do you think flexibility would help narrow the pay gap?

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