What is the gender pay gap?

A gender pay gap is the difference between women’s and men’s earnings, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings.

The national gender pay gap
The national gender pay gap is calculated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Currently, Australia’s national gender pay gap is 15.3%. It has hovered between 15% and 19% for the past two decades.

The national gender pay gap is the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time base salary earnings, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. It is a measure of women’s overall position in the paid workforce and does not compare like roles.

WGEA data
The WGEA collects pay data annually from non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees, covering about 4 million employees in Australia, including superannuation, bonuses and other additional payments.

The full-time total remuneration gender pay gap based on WGEA data is 22.4%, meaning men working full-time earn nearly $27,000 a year more than women working full-time.

Gender pay gaps are calculated across the WGEA dataset by industry, and by management and non-management occupational categories.

ABS and WGEA data both show a gender pay gap favouring full-time working men over full-time working women in every industry and occupational category in Australia.

Causes of the gender pay gap
The gender pay gap is influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • discrimination and bias in hiring and pay decisions
  • women and men working in different industries and different jobs, with female-dominated industries and jobs attracting lower wages
  • women’s disproportionate share of unpaid caring and domestic work
  • lack of workplace flexibility to accommodate caring and other responsibilities, especially in senior roles
  • women’s greater time out of the workforce impacting career progression and opportunities.

The gender pay gap starts from the time women enter the workforce. The pay gap, together with time out of the workforce for caring reasons and women’s higher likelihood of part-time work, impacts on their lifetime economic security.

Pay gaps within organisations
The WGEA encourages organisations to analyse their own pay data in different ways to uncover different pay equity issues and take action at all levels of the organisation.

  • Like-for-like: pay gaps between women and men in the same or similar roles could reflect bias in discretionary pay decisions such as pay rises and bonuses.
  • By-level: pay gaps between women and men working in the same level of the organisational hierarchy may reflect that more men are clustered at the top of a pay band or manager category; or that male-dominated organisational functions are valued more highly than female-dominated functions.
  • Organisation-wide: a gap between the average remuneration of women and men across the whole organisation may reflect barriers to women’s access to senior and high-paying roles in an organisation – especially leadership, technical and specialist roles.

The Agency has developed a variety of resources to help employers undertake a pay gap analysis and address gender pay gaps in their organisations.

International gender pay gaps
Gender pay gaps are an internationally established measure of women’s position in the economy. Directly comparing international gender pay gaps is problematic due to differences in sources, definitions and methods used to calculate the gender pay gap in different countries. However, it is clear that gender pay gaps in favour of men are a common feature of economies world-wide.