Women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care work, lack of flexibility and time out of the workforce are key factors to the gender pay gap
The burden of unpaid care and housework falls primarily on women (particularly mothers), according to the Diversity Council of Australia’s CEO Lisa Annese.
Annese added that once women have children, they take on the lion’s share of caring and household management, and ten years later they are still doing more than men, even if they are working full-time.
"Many women I know are frustrated by this inequality, but fixing it is more than just having some men step up and do more. Government and employers must proactively dismantle the structural, societal and workplace inequalities that enable this inequality,” said Annese.
According to DCA’s new report Let’s Share the Care: A Call to Action to Reduce the Gender Pay Gap, women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, lack of workplace flexibility and time out of the workforce are key contributors to the gender pay gap.
However, there are a number of strategies to reduce the burden on mothers (and all women) outlined in the report.
These include: better access to flexible and affordable child care, introducing workplace policies that are supportive of families, challenging gender stereotypes and social norms that reinforce traditional gender roles, and implementing fiscal policies that recognise the potential disincentives for female labour force participation.
“There is a high level of support for sharing the care, especially given Australian men and women overwhelmingly believe that men should be as involved in parenting as women,” added Annese.
“In the lead up to the Federal Election, both major parties have put forward policies that could contribute to closing the gender pay gap and we welcome that. We also urge employers and families to play their part.”
The major findings of the report include:
- Gender pay gaps persist in Australia:
- The full-time gender pay gap is 14.1%, meaning women, on average, earn $239.80 per week less than men. While it reached a record low in November 2018, it has remained between 14% and 19% for the past twenty years.
- An important driver of pay gaps is the gendered impact of caring:
- Women are much more likely than men to access primary parental leave, and therefore to experience costly career interruptions.
- In 2016-17, just one in every twenty parents taking primary parental leave was a father, and 85% of fathers take fewer than four weeks leave. Career interruptions accounted for 21% of the 2014 gender pay gap.
- Even ten years after the birth or adoption of their first child, Australian women undertake 62% of domestic work in a household. In fact, married women with children do more housework than their male partners, even if both partners work full-time.
- Women also report carrying the household mental load – the burden of remembering, planning and organising. Nearly 70% of mothers report frequently feeling chronically time pressured compared to 55% of fathers.
- But it’s not just about parenting. Twice as many women as men are the primary carer to a person with a disability, and of these women, 57% are not in the labour force.
- Women’s disproportionately more time out of the workforce also affects their opportunities to develop skills and undertake training and therefore to increase their lifetime earnings.
- In most societies, paid work is considered a masculine task, while unpaid care work is seen as women’s domain. Australia is no exception – for instance, 51% of Australians agree that men and women have different skills and talents based on their gender, with 37% believing that women are better at most household chores and 35% that women are better suited to be the primary carer of children.
- What’s needed to share the care and close the gap:
- Recognise unpaid care and work by measuring it,
- Reduce the burden of unpaid care and work through investments in physical and social infrastructure, and
- Redistribute the work through policies that encourage men to take up more care work.
- Key actions we can all take:
- What government can do: Ensure affordable, available, flexible and accessible universal child care. Universal access ensures that all families can access quality child care, in a form that meets the needs of children, parents and community, and at a cost that does not present a barrier to participation.
- What employers can do: Make sure flexible work is available to anyone for any reason, and introduce ‘shared care’ parental leave so all parents have equal paid leave and can access this flexibly.
- What families can do: Renegotiate in their home who does what when it comes to caring and household management so this is shared equitably and women and men have equal opportunity to work, stay employed and hold better jobs.