Legislative Council: Thursday, December 01, 2022



Gender Inequality

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (16:36): I move:

That this council—

(a) notes that gender inequality continues to exist in Australia and notes that addressing this inequality is integral to our economy and every aspect of our state’s community life;

(b) notes that the South Australian gender pay gap was reported at 7.4 per cent in November 2021 across full-time adult weekly ordinary time earnings;

(c) notes that women’s employment was disproportionately affected by COVID-19 as work in hospitality, events and the arts disappeared;

(d) commits to doing whatever it can to:

(i) address the prevalence of women engaged in insecure work, including in casual and part-time employment and through labour hire companies by strengthening labour hire, wage theft and other industrial legislation;

(ii) ensure legislation and government policy is inclusive and enables equality of opportunity; and

(iii) ensure equal representation across government boards.

Our government is committed to addressing economic inequality through addressing systemic and cultural indicators of gender inequality. As South Australian women, we are fortunate to live in a state with a progressive history of gender equality. While we can acknowledge and pay credit to the past, we must not overstate this. There is much to be done as we strive for equality.

In South Australia, as it is everywhere, gender inequality is the key driver of disadvantage for women. Nationally, women are likely to live longer than men—85 years versus 80 years—however, their superannuation balance in retirement is significantly less than men. Australian men have an average superannuation balance at retirement of approximately $345,000 compared to women, whose average super is $279,000. This is an area we must address.

While recent ABS data from May 2022 indicates that the rate of unemployment for women is lower than for men, there are significantly more women in South Australia working part-time or in casual employment. Recent statistics show that, overall, 70 per cent of part-time jobs were held by women and they are twice as likely to be engaged in insecure work than their male counterparts.

Women are not only more likely to work part-time and in casual roles, they are also more likely to have fragmented work histories and precarious attachment to the workplace. They often experience greater levels of discrimination, have fewer employment opportunities, and lower levels of financial literacy and independence. It is this combination of factors that can leave women in poor financial circumstances in later life, and contributes to the gender pay and superannuation gaps. It was also these factors that saw women disproportionately and negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is shameful that women who work in female-dominated occupations attract lower pay than those in male-dominated occupations. At the core of this government's efforts to address the gender pay gap is the establishment of a Gender Pay Gap Taskforce to further understand and address the factors that contribute to the 7.4 per cent gender pay gap in South Australia in a systematic way.

As chair of this task force, I am determined that we cannot be complacent about the impacts of the gender pay gap on women's lives and the community as a whole. The election of the Albanese Labor government and its substantial industrial relations and gender equality reform agenda also provide an opportunity to align the South Australian task force and the actions they take within the broader national framework.

Our task force brings together experts from across government, non-government, business and industries to provide expert advice to our government and recommend specific actions that we can take to address the gender pay gap. Closing the gender pay gap goes beyond just ensuring equal pay. Closing the gender pay gap requires systemic and cultural change to remove the barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce.

Undervaluing the work of women must come to an end. This task force is not only an important step in the work towards closing the gender pay gap in South Australia but also a key step to securing women's financial security across their life span. Our government is committed to a range of other policy initiatives to address inequality and ensure that women and girls can equally and actively participate in our economy and in every aspect of community life. These include:

re-establishing the Premier's Women's Directory to provide an additional avenue for South Australian women to join boards;

committing to achieving 50 per cent representation of women on state government boards; and

reinstating the Women in Sport Taskforce to advise the government on issues preventing women and girls participating fully in their sporting passions and life.

Both the Premier's Women's Directory and the Women in Sport Taskforce were shamefully shut down, cut by the previous government. For a relatively small investment, these initiatives can help make a difference and advance us closer towards gender equality.

We have also launched our $4 million Women in Business package, which will provide a suite of programs that will be made available to South Australian female-owned businesses. Importantly, we also include an equality bill, which will seek to promote, encourage and facilitate the systemic achievement of gender equality.

These commitments will ensure that South Australian women and girls can build financially stable futures and are empowered to equally participate in all aspects of the community. I am proud to be part of a government that takes the gender pay gap seriously and one that is committed to doing everything possible to address gender inequality at its core.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. L.A. Curran.