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"Bizarre": SA public service gender pay gap worse than private sector

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South Australia has the lowest gender pay gap in the country – but the discrepancy is considerably larger in the public service, where some men are paid up to $43,000 more on average than their female colleagues.

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InDaily can reveal that male South Australian public servants are paid on average $13,473 more than their female colleagues – a 15 per cent pay gap.

Nearly 70 per cent of SA’s public servants are women.

The State Government’s first-ever study into the subject has found a public service gender pay gap far above the SA average of 9.8 per cent.

The South Australian average gender pay gap – defined as the difference between women’s and men’s average, weekly, full-time equivalent salary – is the lowest of any state or territory in the country.

As of June 2016, the Australian average gender pay gap was 16.2 per cent in favour of men.

The widest gap in the SA public service is among doctors, followed by executive employees and emergency service workers.

Male medical officers were paid on average $43,172 more than their female colleagues last year – a 21 per cent gender pay gap.

The average male executive employee received $27,260 more in annual salary than the average female executive – a 14 per cent gap.

Male emergency service workers were paid $8,248 more than female colleagues – an 11 per cent gap.

Gender gap in the SA public service by employee type. Image: Leah Zahorujko/InDaily

The gender pay gap in the SA public sector. Graphic: Leah Zahorujko/InDaily.

South Australian Commissioner for Equal Opportunity Dr Niki Vincent told InDaily it was “bizarre” and “disappointing” that the state’s public service gender pay gap was higher than that in the private sector.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, the opposite is generally true across the country: the wage gap is generally higher in the private sector than the public sector.

Those statistics include local, commonwealth and state government employees.

The gender pay gap in the private sector is generally higher than in the public sector.

“It’s bizarre and it’s disappointing that in South Australia, where we have had such a strong focus on gender equality,” Vincent told InDaily.

“At least the State Government is at the point now where (it) will be able to address (the gender pay gap), now it knows it exists.

“I’d say congratulations to the South Australian Government for actually undertaking a pay audit.”

The latest SA public service gender pay gap figure, from June 2016, was lower than at the same time in 2015 (17 per cent) and 2014 (16 per cent).

The Minister for the Status of Women, Zoe Bettison, said the public service gender pay gap study was the first of its kind.

“Recognising the public sector’s gender pay gap is the first step toward addressing it, and I am pleased this informative work has been done because we can’t change what we don’t know,”  Bettison said.

“I’m really pleased to see our overall pay gap decreasing are that we are tracking in the right direction.”

Today is national Equal Pay Day.

“This is an important day for our leaders to reflect on the pay gap and how we can all work to address and narrow the gap,” she said.

The only other state government to conduct a gender pay gap study of its public service was the WA Government, which found a gap of 16.3 per cent in June 2014.

According to the federal Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the gender pay gap is caused by “a number of interrelated work, family and societal factors, including stereotypes about the work women and men ‘should’ do, and the way women and men ‘should’ engage in the workforce”.

Vincent said the gender pay gap across the economy was the result, among other factors, of conscious and unconscious discrimination against women in employment decisions, and a failure by employers to extend career-progression opportunities equitably.

She said that there was a 4.5 per cent gender pay gap in favour of male graduates of the same university degrees, despite women on average achieving better grades at the tertiary level.

She said men were on average also offered more opportunities for training and development than their female colleagues – and were disadvantaged in career progression by more time spent away from work, especially maternity leave.

Vincent is the SA convenor of Chiefs for Gender Equity (CfGE) – a group of senior business leaders from prominent South Australian companies.

CfGE member David Martin, Managing Partner at Finlaysons said the gender pay gap was harming the economy.

“Wanting to hire or promote people who look, think and work like us is a natural inclination, but it’s not good for building diversity, or an equitable place to work — it’s also bad for business because a gender-balanced workforce leads to better performance,” he said.

“We need to find ways to eliminate entrenched bias in our recruitment processes and leadership decisions – not just because it’s fair, but also because it means greater innovation and problem-solving capacity, better productivity, reduced turnover and happier employees.”

CfGE today released a guide to combatting gender discrimination in the workplace, embedded and downloadable below.

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