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Tuesday, 17 September 1985
Page: 621

Senator ZAKHAROV —My question is addressed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women. Is it a fact that women are still under-represented in the upper levels of the work force and over-represented among the unemployed? What measures is the Government taking to improve the position of women in the work force and, in particular, to widen women's employment options?

Senator RYAN —It is a fact, as Senator Zakharov's question suggests, that, despite the improvements in women's employment opportunities made by the Hawke Government, women are still under-represented in the upper areas of the work force and over-represented in the more fragile and less well-paid areas. In response to this situation the Government is taking a number of measures. Senator Zakharov may be particularly interested in a publication released yesterday by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations which outlines measures in the 1985-86 Budget aimed at improving the position of women in the work force and announcing the development in his portfolio of a national strategy on women in the labour force.

The strategy will draw together a number of policies and programs currently in operation or being developed in the Department as well as initiatives taken in State or Territory offices and individual offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service. The Government's concern to increase employment choices and opportunity for women and to remove discriminatory employment practices is reflected in the special efforts being made to increase women's participation in labour market programs and open up employment in jobs which traditionally have been male. For example, in the community employment program the Government's major job creation project, a target of 50 per cent of jobs for women has been set. Considerable progress towards achieving that target has been made.

The implementation of some of the major recommendations of the report of the Kirby Committee of Inquiry Into Labour Market Programs will also help to improve the participation rates of women in all areas of the labour market. There will be special efforts, for example, to ensure that the new traineeships are as accessible to young women as they are to young men. The newly integrated adult training program will certainly provide major support for women re-entering the work force. Under the special trade training program, 500 places for trade-based pre-employment courses have been approved specifically for women. The women's research and employment initiatives program was established to provide funding and specialist research, small scale research and community initiatives in relation to women's employment. Two major projects on maternity leave usage in the public and private sectors have been funded, as has a major project on industry policy. A number of CES offices have specifically initiated activities aimed at unemployed women in their regions. These activities include an affirmative action program for female job seekers introduced in the Brunswick CES office in Victoria in 1984-85.

In summary, a number of initiatives have already been taken through the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. These initiatives will now be co-ordinated and upgraded and, together with other legislative and policy measures being taken by the Government, should ensure that the pattern of structural discrimination against women referred to in Senator Zakharov's question will be adequately addressed during the rest of the term of this Government.