Pay Gap O'Clock: Women work for free from 3:56pm


Australian women will be working for free on the afternoon of International Women's Day according to new data released by Aware Super.

Aware Super has crunched the data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) which highlighted an average gender pay gap of 13.3% in Australia.

Applying this gap to a typical 9-5 workday, Aware has calculated that Australian women are effectively working for free from 3:56pm every day.

women work for free gender pay gap

How the pay gap affects women's super balances

This daily difference impacts more than just take-home pay, with the gender pay gap causing a big difference in the retirement balances of Australian women.

Nationally there is a gender retirement gap of $76,000 with Western Australian recording the worse gap of $143,000.

Across 16 different industries, the professional, scientific and technical services industry had the largest pay gap of 21.2% resulting in a retirement gap of $149,000.

Aware Super CEO Deanne Stewart says that the pay gap was the single greatest impediment to women achieving financial success in retirement.

"A gender pay gap affects more than your take-home pay," she says.

"It directly reduces your super contributions, which in turn directly reduces your potential balance at retirement."

It's not just professional services with the healthcare industry also reporting a gap of 21.1% and financial services reporting a 19.1% gap.

"As the fund with more teachers than any other in Australia, we're also deeply concerned to see the gender pay gap for the Education and Training sector sitting at 10.1%, meaning a $61,000 deficit to women when they retire from this essential role in our communities."

Stewart says that it isn't good enough to just talk about this issue a few times throughout the year, with even the federal government conceding that Australian women will be underpaid $51.8 billion this year.

"Another way of saying that is, Australia's female workforce will do $51.8 billion worth of work for free," she says.

Pay gap clock

That's why Aware Super has designated 3:56pm as Pay Gap O'Clock.

"To put a daily reminder in the diaries of Australian workplaces that as of this time, your female workforce is essentially there for free," says Stewart.

The move is similiar to the WGEA Equal Pay Day, which in 2022 was August 29 and marks the 60 extra days after the end of the financial year that Australian women must work, on average, to earn the same annual salary earned by men.

The 2022 date was calculated from a pay gap of 14.1% which has since dropped to 13.3% in February this year.

WGEA Director Mary Wooldridge says this was the lowest gap on record but warns its only a limited reflection of the true situation.

"The gender pay gap is a handbrake on women's ability to make ends meet. With inflation at 7.8%, and rising, everyday essentials are becoming increasingly unaffordable," says Ms Woolridge.

"Women are $253.50 worse off every single week as a result of their gender."

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Eliot Hastie was a senior journalist at Money magazine in early 2023. He was previously a producer and presenter at ausbiz where he covered startups, small caps, cryptocurrency and every other investible opportunity for Australians. Eliot has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Journalism from the University of Westminster. He tweets at @Hastie93.
Mike Richards
March 8, 2023 6.44pm

And this has been debunked several times. As a Gen-X, I have worked in both Federal and State Government from 2005 to 2020, and as a public servant, no one got paid less than someone else just because of their gender - everyone got the same for the same work level classification (regardless of how much work they did or didn't do, or the quality of it, so there was no incentive to do well).

Men get paid more because predominantly, they do the high-paying (yet very dangerous jobs) like construction, open sea fishing, working on oil rigs, mining and forestry.

Women APPEAR to be paid less than men because they're in different types of jobs to men (e.g. childcare or retail) that pay less because of perceived value of those workers (it's a free supply and demand market), and these jobs often don't require the same set of skills (a degree in engineering), don't require as much specialist experience, need less sophisticated skillsets or have less time commitments. I can't ever recall ANY of my male colleagues working "part time" !

That's why.

Sam P
March 8, 2023 8.25pm

The Gender Pay Gap is a myth.

Because if there was, then every employer would hire women only as they can pay them less.

Mike Richards
March 9, 2023 7.54am

Agree 100% ! And seeing as how on the ABC we were told by the Greens that "Women are better educated than men" last night...but let's not stop there. How about the inequality in maternity leave ? Women = 18 weeks (at LEAST). Men ? Two.

Nat S
March 8, 2023 8.43pm

The gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing

Nick S
March 9, 2023 2.39pm

There is no doubt that some careers are paid much less than others and many of these tend to be those where the workforce is more often heavily biased to women working in them. More could be done to address those inconsistencies.

However, rightly or wrongly, families are still fairly traditional, when children come along. It is still the norm for men to continue their careers whilst women step back into part time work and more home duties caring for the family. Nothing wrong with doing it the other way round however it seems families in general prefer it this way.

The reality for many women is that they have already finished paid work by 3.56pm each day so of course they are not being paid. WGEA has not identified any systemic issues where women are being paid less for doing the same job as men, the gender pay gap is never going to close if one section of the community is working 40 hours a week and another section is only working 20 hours a week. Of course there will be a gap and so there should be.

Rod F
March 12, 2023 11.54am

I agree with the above comments. This myth has been debunked. Why would a serious magazine like Money continue to generate heat on this - particularly by using the clock analogy?

I'm assume lots of young women are angry because they take this at face value?