Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Economic status of women in Australia: a statistical profile: 1997 update.



Download PDFDownload PDF

Department of the Parliamentary Library

Information and Research Services

RESEARCH NOTE Number 49, May 1996-97 ISSN 1328-8016 Economic Status of Women in Australia: A Statistical Profile - 1997 Update Women and Employment The participation of women in the labour force has increased steadily: in April 1997, 54.1 per cent of women aged 15 years and over were participating in the labour force, compared with an all-time high of 54.4 per cent in February 1997, 49.3 per cent in February 1988 and 43.0 per cent in May 1979. The proportion of women in the labour force in Australia is lower than in Great Britain and Canada among Commonwealth countries, and lower than in a number of other OECD countries including the United States of America and Scandinavian countries. Women predominate in the part-time labour force. Since late 1990 the unemployment rate of women has been lower than the male unemployment rate. (Some possible reasons for this are discussed in Are Women Taking Jobs Away From Men, Research Note No. 46, May 1997.) The unemployment rate of women fell from 11.0 per cent in September 1983 to 8.3 per cent in June 1986 and was at its lowest in the past

nineteen years at 6.4 per cent in December 1989. In April 1997 it was 8.5 per cent. However, women still predominate among

discouraged jobseekers, i.e. in 'hidden unemployment'. In

September 1996, of 118 900

persons classified as discouraged job-seekers by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 75 per cent were women. This situation had deteriorated compared with September 1994 when 70 per cent of the 106 500 discouraged

jobseekers were women.

Despite 'equal pay' decisions dating back to 1969, women still have not achieved earnings parity. For adult employees, in February 1997, women's full-time average ordinary time weekly earnings were 84 per cent of men's. For adult full-time average total weekly earnings the female/male proportion was 80 per cent and for all employees average total weekly earnings, the

female/male proportion was 67 per cent. These ratios are much the same as in February 1988. The female/male proportion for all

employees average total weekly earnings in May 1975 was also 67 per cent and this has fluctuated little in the past 22 years.

The latest earnings distribution figures, for May 1996, show that 63.6 per cent of workers with total earnings of under $100 per week were women, and only 20.8 per cent of people with total earnings of $800 per week and over were women. This latter figure may reflect an improvement in the situation of some women as in May 1994 an estimated 19.0 per cent of people with total earnings of $800 per week or more were women.

In May 1996, the median total earnings figure for all female

employees was $434.20 per week compared with $630.00 for all male employees, and the median total weekly earnings for full-time adult female employees was $576.80 compared with $701.30 for full-time adult male employees.

Table 1: Women and the Labour Force (per cent)

February-

Characteristic 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 1996 1997

Female proportion of the civilian population (a) 50.8 50.8 50.7 50.6 50.8 50.8 50.8

Female proportion of the labour force 35.2 36.8 38.4 41.6 42.6 42.8 43.4

Participation rate (b): males 81.5 78.3 75.8 75.5 74.3 74.1 73.3

females 43.2 44.4 46.1 52.3 53.5 53.9 54.4

Female proportion of employment: full-time 27.2 28.3 29.5 31.6 32.4 32.7 32.9

part-time 80.9 78.9 78.7 78.1 74.7 74.8 74.6

total 34.3 36.0 38.0 41.1 42.5 42.8 43.3

Unemployment rate (b): full-time workers - males 3.6 4.9 8.1 5.6 8.9 8.7 9.0

- females 6.7 8.7 10.1 7.7 10.2 9.5 9.9

part-time workers - males 9.3 6.7 7.8 8.5 9.6 8.6 9.3

- females 6.8 5.7 6.9 6.3 6.9 6.1 6.6

total - males 3.8 5.0 8.1 5.9 9.0 8.7 9.0

- females 6.8 7.7 9.0 7.2 8.7 8.1 8.5

(a) Aged 15 years and over. (b) Seasonally adjusted. Source: The Labour Force, various (ABS).

Reasons for the disparity in

earnings levels include the lower awards for traditionally female occupations and the predominance of women in part-time

employment. In addition Australia has one of the highest incidences of both occupation and industry segregation of women workers amongst OECD countries.

Women are over-represented in the lowest paid jobs (traditional female occupations). Two-thirds of

women workers are concentrated in five occupational groups: teaching, nursing, clerical, sales and personal services. They are under-

represented in many occupations such as engineering, science and technology positions, and trades. In February 1997, for example, only 9.3 per cent of tradespersons and related workers were women, while 90.1 per cent of advanced clerical and service workers were women. Within industries, women tend to be clustered at the lowest salary levels.

Management The progress of women into

management positions has been generally slow. According to a survey by Korn/Ferry International, Study of boards of directors in Australia, by 31 December 1995 women in companies comprised only 4.2 per cent of board

members, only 1 per cent of

executive directors and only 5.6 per cent of non-executive directors. Of the companies surveyed

(including government business

enterprises) only 26 per cent had at least one woman on their boards. By comparison, in the USA 63 per cent of companies had at least one woman on their boards and 7 per cent of directors overall were women.

In terms of appointments to

Commonwealth Government

statutory boards, councils and authorities, 28.9 per cent of

members were women (as at 31 December 1995). Following a 1988 Government resolution that at least 25 per cent of places on

government boards, councils and committees be filled by women the proportion increased from 12 per cent to approximately 20 per cent by 1992.

Income Of persons whose principal source of income in 1994-95 was wages or salaries, the mean gross total

income (from all sources) of

women was only 65.8 per cent of the average (mean) for men. For all persons, the mean gross total

income (from all sources) of

women was only 55.8 per cent of the average (mean) for men. The distribution of total gross incomes from all sources is distorted against women: 60.4 per cent of people with annual incomes of less than $5 000 were women whilst only 19.1 per cent of people with

incomes of $40 000 and over were women (compared with 17.4 per cent in 1991).

Women and Poverty In Australia, in June 1996 women

made up about 62 per cent of

Australia's adult (civilian)

pensioners and beneficiaries

(compared with 58 per cent in June 1994), and 93.6 per cent of sole parent pensioner families were headed by women. Single parent families were over-represented at the lowest income levels and

therefore those most likely to be living below poverty level

standards were women and

children. Of all families with

dependent children, 20.5 per cent are sole parent families, and of these about 78.6 per cent are

headed by women.

Geoff Winter Statistics Group Consie Larmour Social Policy Group Information and Research Services Phone: 06 277 2437 Fax: 06 277 2454

Views expressed in this Research Note are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Information and Research Services and are not to be attributed to the Department of the Parliamentary Library. Research Notes provide concise analytical briefings on issues of interest to Senators and Members. As such they may not canvass all of the key issues.

© Commonwealth of Australia

Table 2: Persons(a) whose Principal Source of Income was Wages or Salaries, 1994-95

Men Women All persons

Annual gross Prop. of Prop. of Prop. of Prop. who

income(b) Number total Number total Number total were women

($) ('000) (%) ('000) (%) ('000) (%) (%)

Less than 5 000 187.6 4.7 286.3 9.6 473.9 6.8 60.4

5 000 ⎯ 12 499 234.5 5.9 476.4 16.0 710.9 10.2 67.0

12 500 ⎯ 19 999 391.1 9.8 587.8 19.7 979.1 14.0 60.0

20 000 ⎯ 29 999 1 061.2 26.5 883.4 29.7 1 944.7 27.9 45.2

30 000 ⎯ 39 999 955.1 23.9 483.6 16.2 1 438.8 20.6 33.6

40 000 ⎯ 49 999 594.3 14.9 175.9 5.9 770.2 11.0 22.8

50 000 and over 577.6 14.4 85.8 2.9 663.4 9.5 12.9

Total 4 001.6 100.0 2 979.4 100.0 6 981.0 100.0 42.7

(a) Aged 15 years and over. (b) From all sources. Source: Survey of Income and Housing Costs, 1994-95 (ABS).