Australia on Thursday passed legislation that makes it mandatory from next year for firms with more than 100 employees to publish wage data and report their gender pay gap every year. The UK introduced a similar law in 2017 for companies with over 250 employees. The European Union has had similar laws since 2021.
In 2023, Australia's national gender pay gap was 13.3%, according to data from the Australian Bureau for Statistics. Until now, disparity in pay between men and women was disclosed by industry rather than individual company. The legislation is part of the government’s efforts to improve working conditions for women. “On current projections it will take another 26 years to close the gender pay gap,” Reuters quoted Australia’s Minister for Women Katy Gallagher as saying in a statement. Earlier this month, the country increased paid parental leave to 26 weeks.
Merely publishing gender pay gap data, however, isn’t enough. “The reality is that while more and more jurisdictions—including the UK, Japan, the European Union and parts of the US—are forcing companies into wage transparency, the gap is stuck. In the US, for example, it has remained relatively stable over the past 20 years, with women earning on average 82% of what men do,” writes Andreea Papuc in an opinion piece for Bloomberg. In Japan, companies with 301 or more employees must follow wage reporting standards, while the US has a nationwide salary transparency movement to tackle gender and racial wage differences.
Last year, the World Economic Forum said it would take another 132 years to close the global gender pay gap. The International Labour Organisation estimates that worldwide women are paid about 20% less than men. Australia ranks 43rd on the Global Gender Gap Index 2022, a list that Iceland, Finland and Norway lead. India ranks 135, among 148 countries on the list.
Reporting these numbers and knowing how much people are paid, however, is the easy part. While disclosure does help narrow the gap, to work towards closing it, companies have to change policies relating to working hours and flexible work as well as provide support for caregiving of children and the elderly, especially for employees in junior positions. Women have risen in the corporate world, but the discrimination and stereotyping that keeps this gap wide persists, and needs to be tackled.