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Jobs summit in shadow of widening wage gap

Women’s economic security and an overhaul to the social service system must be prioritised by the federal government as the wage gap continues to widen, advocates say.

On average, women’s full-time weekly earnings are almost $250 less than men’s, data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday shows.

The data found the gender pay gap – the difference in full-time earnings between men and women – is 14.1 per cent as of May 2022, up 1.9 per cent from the previous year.

Economic Justice Australia says it is crucial the upcoming jobs and skills summit discusses policies that will boost economic security for low-income women in particular.

“The social security system is not fit for purpose … Penalties for non-compliance with mutual obligations and the stress of dealing with Centrelink intensifies problems, not solves them and acts as a barrier to employment,” the group’s chief Leanne Ho said.

“The system needs to address barriers to entering or rejoining the workforce and move away from a focus on compliance monitoring and imposing penalties.”

More than 70 per cent of Australian men aged 15 and over are in the workforce, compared to 62.2 per cent of women, the ABS data shows.

Men’s superannuation sums are also higher, with a median balance of $208,200 compared to $168,000 for women aged over 65 years.

The government must reset the national picture when it comes to women in the workforce, the peak body representing single mothers said.

“For too long we have expected women to work as if they don’t have children and to parent as if they don’t have paid work,” National Council of Single Mothers and their Children chief Terese Edwards said.

“We ignore the additional demands and cost of single mothering; we don’t value unpaid care or address the economic consequences of gendered violence.”

An issues paper released by Treasury ahead of the summit said women’s economic opportunities would be prioritised when business heads, unions and government representatives gather in Canberra.

Women’s experiences in the labour market and ensuring women have equal opportunities and pay would be the overarching focus of the summit, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said.

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