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The decade-long plan to eliminate gender inequality

By Jack Campbell | |7 minute read

The government recently announced a specialised taskforce to help eliminate gender inequality, with plans to begin action already in the works.

The Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce has begun a 10-year plan that will provide advice to the Australian government to help achieve women’s economic equality and gender equality.

The taskforce was described by the government as “an independent group of eminent women with valuable experience, expertise and insights across key economic, social and labour market contexts. All taskforce members were appointed by the Minister for Women, Senator the [Honourable] Katy Gallagher, to provide bold and independent recommendations to [the] government.”


Seven recommendations were put forward in the A 10-year-plan to unleash the full capacity and contribution of women to the Australian economy 2023–2033 report by the taskforce:

  1. The Australian government must provide leadership and accountability for driving economic equality outcomes and embed gender equity into its decision making, budgeting, and policy design, implementation and evaluation mechanisms.
  2. The Australian government must invest in policies and programs that recognise the economic importance and value of care work in Australia and help families to better share caring responsibilities.
  3. The Australian government must utilise its legislative, regulatory and spending powers to ensure all Australian workplaces create safe, secure, flexible and equitable work opportunities that support women’s economic participation.
  4. The Australian government must provide women in Australia with lifelong, accessible, flexible and affordable education and skill building. They must also remove existing disincentives and inequities that perpetuate industry and occupational segregation and sustained pay and wealth gaps.
  5. The Australian government must undertake a long-term, targeted and deliberate investment program to ensure women are leading and building the economy in equal measure to men.
  6. The government must ensure that women have financial security throughout their lives and are increasingly building lifetime wealth and economic equality.
  7. The Australian government must invest in programs to address community attitudes and biases that prevent women’s full economic participation across a lifetime.

Many have welcomed the introduction of this body, including ASPL Group chief executive Kris Grant: “I welcome all seven of the recommendations put forward by the taskforce, which recognise a strong role for government in removing the gender inequality that Australian women face, including that the Australian government must utilise its legislative power to ensure all Australian workplaces create flexible and equitable work opportunities that support women’s economic equality.”

“Importantly, the taskforce has recommended that superannuation be paid on paid parental leave, a measure that would improve women’s economic equality considerably, given so many women fall behind in their earnings when they take time out to have children.”

There are a variety of areas within Australian society where gender inequality has seen continued prevalence. According to the report, the five key areas are:

  1. Care
  2. Work
  3. Education and skills
  4. Tax and transfers
  5. Government

The lack of action taken up until now has allowed these issues to permeate. So much so that according to the research, on average, an Australian woman earns $1 million less than an Australian man across her career.

Working mothers were reportedly hit the hardest by this disparity, as the average 25-year-old woman today who has at least one child could earn $2 million less over her lifetime than the average 25-year-old man who becomes a father, if current patterns continue.

Sam Mostyn, Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce chair, commented: “We have arrived at a moment of consequence where a genuine commitment to respect women, and valuing and nurturing their economic contribution by removing systemic barriers, is vital.”

This inequality doesn’t just impact women, but the wider economy. The report found that the economic cost of women not participating fully and equally in the workforce is estimated at $128 billion each year.

Meanwhile, the median superannuation balance of men aged 65 and over in the 2019–2020 financial year was $208,200. This figure stood at $168,000 for women. More action is needed to help level these numbers.

“We must all recognise the important role of Australian women in the workforce and compensate them fairly for their workplace contributions, but also recognise their greater caring role in families such as the care and education of children and the care of elderly people in both family life and in paid employment,” explained Ms Grant.

“Public policy must support all organisations to close the gender economic gap by providing guidelines for employers to achieve greater gender equality. I also fully support the recommendation that the Australian government must remove existing disincentives and inequities that perpetuate industry and occupational segregation and sustained pay and wealth gaps, such as in the mining industry and even in the healthcare industry, despite the high level of participation by women.”

The healthcare sector rates particularly poorly. According to data referenced by Ms Grant, the average male weekly total cash earnings in the sector were $2,012 per week in May 2021. Comparatively, women sat at $1,670 despite participation almost three times that of men.

“That represents a difference of $340 a week, or almost $18,000 a year. That is an entirely unacceptable gap, and legislation needs to be strengthened to reduce the gender pay gap in the healthcare sector and all other industries,” Ms Grant said.

She concluded: “The taskforce is right in recognising the important role [of] the Australian government in ensuring women have financial security across their lives and must invest in programs to address community attitudes and biases that prevent not only women’s full economic participation but avoid them falling into poverty. It is a very sad fact that the report finds that women over 60 have become the largest cohort of the population most likely to end up in homelessness, despite the fact that many of those women have been loyal carers and employees for much of their lives. That’s why it is so important to implement the taskforce’s recommendations.”

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.