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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1848

Senator GILES —My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. Is there any basis for the assertion of Margaret Power, as reported in today's papers, that the prices and incomes accord and the Government's policies for economic recovery have been targeted in such a way that men are the prime beneficiaries in terms of increased job opportunities?

Senator RYAN —I saw a report of Margaret Power's comments in the media and I was surprised by them because I think her analysis is wrong. I do not think there is any basis for her assertion that the economic recovery excludes women in its benefits. I draw the Senate's attention to a number of statistics which suggest that Margaret Power's analysis is without basis. First, the growth in the employment figures between the June quarter of 1983 and the September quarter of 1984 shows a rise of 240,100 persons in employment. Female employment accounted for 124,900 of those-that is, over half that total. Female full time employment accounted for 68,000, an increase of 4.6 per cent compared with a 2.8 per cent increase in male full time employment. Those figures alone would suggest that women are benefiting from the economic recovery, and benefiting in a slightly higher proportion than they are represented in the work force. That is a highly desirable trend since they were previously badly disadvantaged by the economic policies of the Fraser Government.

I also draw the Senate's attention to the success the Government has had in creating jobs for women under the community employment plan. There we have aimed at a target overall of 50 per cent of the jobs for women. We have not reached that target, but we have reached a figure for women of about 38 per cent under the community employment plan. I believe that percentage will increase over the next year. There is another point to be made in the kind of analysis made by Margaret Power. The kinds of jobs which are available to women in the labour market now are being diversified. This is happening because of the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act and also because of the affirmative action pilot program. Both those policies of the Labor Government will mean that women will no longer be restricted to the very low paid jobs, to which traditionally they have been restricted and on which Margaret Power's analysis is probably based.

Certainly it is the case that while women are clustered in the low paid jobs, any wages policy that gives the same increase in wages to all wage earners will not allow women to overcome the gap that exists in wages. However, what will allow them to overcome that gap is the opportunity for women to move into different jobs-jobs in non-traditional areas which are higher paid, or to move up in job levels as a result of affirmative action practices. Our job creation scheme, the kinds of jobs that are being created, the effect of the Sex Discrimination Act prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of sex or marital status and, as we will start to see over the next few months, the effect of both the equal employment opportunity policies in the public sector and the affirmative action pilot program covering 250,000 workers in the private sector, will mean that women will continue to benefit from the economic recovery not only by gaining more places in the work force but also by gaining jobs that pay at a higher level.