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Is the Australian workplace becoming feminised? Discuss in relation to the major factors, both contemporary and historical, that affect the experience of women in the Australian workplace. Essay Example

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Women Employment In Australia

Women Employment In Australia

Women in the Australian Workforce


Employment is a core contributor to the economy of each country. It contributes to the productivity and consequently the economy of the nation. In Australia, there has been an increase in the female workforce. This rate has increased by 4% over the last decade. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the male workforce in 2012 was at 79% which is 14% higher than the female workforce. This rate has however changed because in 2013 the rate of women in the workforce reduced to 43.5%. Clearly, a higher number of men are employed in the country compared to women.

Educational attainment of women

The educational status of Australian women is not reflected in their workforce. Although a higher percentage of women have attained degrees and higher education levels than their male counterparts, most of these women do not get fulltime jobs as early as the men. Ladies that are available for fulltime employment after graduation are 5% less than the males and those that are available for part time work are 5% greater than the males. These percentages increase further when these ladies are postgraduates. It is evident that women dominate the fields of part time work.

In the past five years, jobs in Australia that require bachelor degree or higher qualifications have increased by more than 15%. This is good news for the many women that are graduates and post graduates. However, most ladies are trained in careers that are lower paying for example social assistance, health and education which have plenty of part time jobs. Women also tend to dominate low income careers such as administration, clerk, service workers and salespersons (Poynton et al, 2013).

On the hand, women do not have representations in the technical fields such as engineering, information technology and mining. These fields are the highly paid industries in Australia and remain male dominated. This is because fewer women are skilled in these fields. According to a study, 84% of engineering graduates are male and 16% of engineering graduates are females. This low skill levels professional fields that are paying limits the work and economies empowerment of ladies. This denotes that more women should be encouraged to study technical based courses (Burgess et al, 1998).

Factors affecting women employment

One factor that has great impact on the employment of women is the need to study. This problem has two aspects; women who study on a full time basis with part time work and the women who study on a part time basis and work on a fulltime basis. The second option includes women who are already working and are studying their post graduate or professional courses while the first includes full time students. As stated by Australian Bureau of Statistics, a higher number of women are in part time work compared to the males for educational advancements. This method of study allows women to study and have economic independence. They noted that most ladies aged fifteen to twenty four are part time workers as they study.

Childbearing is another factor that contributes to the lower employment rates in Australia. This affects women who are in their late twenties or early thirties. The average child bearing age is 23 to 44 years. The employment rates of the women decrease with child birth but these rates will increase once the women rejoin the workforce. According to the Australian institute of family studies, most mothers (45%) prefer to return to full time work after their infants have become twelve to fourteen months old. 23% of these returned to work when their infants were less than 5 months old. Most of these mothers will opt for part time work when their infants are still young.

The family setting of a woman influences their availability for employment. Core factors in this case include single parenthood, partnered parenthood, divorce and separation. Single women are usually breadwinners. Despite that, they have lower employment rates than the partnered mothers and will end working in low paying and unstable part time jobs. Facts like divorce and separation will affect the economic status of an otherwise stable family which will demand women to either work more so as to provide or work less so as to be present for the affected children. For partnered mothers who have children that are less than nine years old, 71% of these were employed compared to 58% of single parents in a similar situation (Baxter et al, 2013).

Another factor that affects the employment rates for women are changes in life. These may involve completing education, changes in relationships, childbirth, health issues in the family, retirement, old age or arrival of grandchildren. In most cases it is women that are involved in care activities and hence any sickness in the family will be laid on them. Women are more likely to care for a sick person or an elderly person instead of going to work compared to the men. Each transition in life is associated with changes in women responsibilities. This affects their availability for work.

Women disability also affects the rates of employment in Australia. Women that have disabilities are discriminated against in all spheres of life. They are largely disadvantaged in areas of education, health, violence, abuse and work and employment. As explained by Women with Disabilities Australia, more than 20% of Australian women are disabled and the rate of unemployment for these women has been at a constant of 8.3% for the last decade despite a reduction of the same value in men that are disabled. It has also explained that disabled women live in poverty due to the vulnerability that is associated with disability.

They will have different economic opportunities compared to males that are disabled. Disabled women are less likely to be employed than men than are disabled. The few who get employed will have lesser pay compared to their male counterparts. 51% of disabled men earn more than two hundred dollars a week compared to 36% of disabled women. Disabled women have many economic, social, educational and cultural issues that will affect their employment and productivity after employment.

The issue of paid leave is also factor that affects women employment. In Australia, 24.8% of ladies in the workforce do not have paid leave compared to 15.87% of men. 30% of female workforce are casual laborers and hence have no paid leave. These leaves vary according to one’s status and industry. Ladies in managerial and high skilled professional work are more likely to get paid leaves compared to those that are salespersons and laborers in low skill fields. It is also observed that women in the private sector are less likely to get these entitlements compared to those in the public sector. Paid leave depends on the nature of the job. Women who work full time are more likely to get the leave compared to those in part time jobs.

Cultural and colonial factors are a major influence on the employment of Australian women. In the colonial days, women were restrained to domestic chores and childcare while their husband and boys went to work. This situation has largely affected careers of women in present days. Women are more involved in hospitality careers leaving the technical, scientific and management fields to the men. This cultural setting is reducing the participation of women in the high paying careers.

Violence against women is a traditional aspect that is affecting women employment in these modern days. Traditionally, violence is approved as a method of settling disagreements and enforcing discipline. According to the Australian Government department of social services, an estimate of one in three Australian women has been abused physically while about 20% of Australian women have been abuse sexually. These violent acts are enhanced by drug and alcohol abuse by perpetrators.

Violence against women affects the productivity of these women. Most of them will have minor injuries and will be treated. On the hand, extreme violence will require sick leaves or loss of jobs depending on the frequency. It affects the productivity of the women due to distraction, poor or lack of concentration, poor work relationships, poor performance, emotional instability and violence related health problems.

Some employment opportunities have strict interview and selection process that limit the number of women that qualify. These are careers that are male dominated such as the police. In 2011, sworn in police women included 26.8% of all sworn in police officers. As explained by Wetendorf (2007), after employment, the female personnel are expected to act like and think like men to gain respect of their colleagues and that of the society. Na female officer will use communication to resolve issues while a man will use force. This presents a clash for officers working together hence placing immense pressure on female police officers to act like men to achieve control. Both of these may discourage women from being interested in working in such fields.

There exists a large pay gap between males and females in Australia. The difference in average payment between men and women shows difference of about 18%. As explained by Baldwin et al (2010), the average weekly earnings for the fulltime career woman are $1,145.70 while that for men is $1,354.70. This indicates that the Australian woman earns less by 18% than their counterpart which is also true at the national levels. It should be noted that the pay gap is decreasing. In 1995, men earned more by 22%, by 23% in 2000 but in 2010 the value has decreased to about 18%.

According to Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the gender pay gap in 2013 was at 17.5% nationally. Western Australia has the highest pay gap of 26.9%. The highest gender pay gap was reported in the health and social care sector (32.3%) which is female dominated. The companies with least pay gap are also female dominated but are low paying industries. These include accommodation and food (7.9%) and public administration and safety services. the pay gap also varies depending on the sector. The pay gap is higher in the private sector (20.8%) than in the public sector (13%).

In her report, Summers (2013) discuses the adverse effect of this pay gap on women. She observes that although the large pay gap was always attributed to work interruptions in women during maternal leaves, this is not the actual cause. It is observed that there was a large gender pay gap in the starting salaries for graduates in 2012. The least gap was noted in law graduates (7.8%) while a larger gap (17.3%) was noted for architectural graduates. It is also reflected in the retirement savings because men have higher benefits. This issue of the gender gap is a discouraging fact and may cause women to lack the incentive to study or further their studies.

Measures To Improve Female Employment

It is the responsibility of the government of Australia to safe guard the well-being of its residents. Office for women is under the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in the Australian government and its main function is to enhance women lives in the nation. The office takes care of all aspects of women life such as health, employment and family relationships. With this office; the government ensures women well-being both socially and economically.

In order to combat low productivity levels caused by violence against women, the Government of Australia has put in place a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022. This plan is in partnership with state and territory governments and other stakeholders through which they advance equality in employment opportunities and their overall rights. These efforts are based on increasing awareness on violence and enhancing law enforcement in handling criminals.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) aims to enhance affirmative action in Australian workplaces based on gender. The main aim of this workforce is to bridge the large gender pay gap. It is also aims to create public awareness and introduce debate of gender equality issues in the workplace. The Australian Government’s Affirmative Action Act (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 that applies to private sector organizations with more than one hundred employees and other higher education institutions, aims to remove sex discrimination from work place and instead promote equal employment opportunity for women.

The Australian government has introduced the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate program to support mothers that have pre-school children and would want to return to full time work after the maternal leave. This program is however expensive for some households. Recent reports by Woodley (2014) explain that childcare costs are getting expensive which will cause over 40% of mothers to reduce their working hours than pay for the high childcare fees. Provision of cheaper day care will help in improving the time that women can work.

Other measures that will increase employment in women include flexibility of working hours, affordable child care, avail promotions for women and increased job chances for women that are qualified as men. As explained by Poynton et al (2013), women that are given flexible working hours are highly productive and waste less time. She also noted that some employees sideline women who are on maternal leave from promotions which is a great disadvantage and should be avoided.

It is also important for women to be encouraged to take technical and scientific courses so that have higher representations in careers that are high paying. Due to the cultural settings of Australia, most organizations do not consider women for senior positions. This discourages women that have worked as hard as their male counterparts.


Several factors affect women employment in Australia negatively. Most of these are factors that can be reduced by appropriate legal frameworks. The cultural background of the Australian people should not limit employment levels in women in these modern times.

List of references

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012, Gender Indicators Australia viewed 27 May 2014, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by+Subject/4125.0~Jan+2012~Main+Features~Labour+force~1110>

Australian Institute of Family Studies 2008, Work and Family Responsibilities through Life viewed 28 May 2014, <http://www.aifs.gov.au/institute/pubs/factssheets/ssbrochure08/ssbrochure08.html>

Burgess, J., & Campbell, I., 1998. Casual employment in Australia: growth, characteristics, a bridge or a trap?. The Economic and Labour Relations Review9(1), 31-54.

Frohmader, C 2010, WWDA Submission to Stage One of the Productivity Commission National Disability Care and Support Inquiry viewed 28 May 2014, <http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/101233/sub0260.pdf >

Poynton, A. & Rolland, L 2013 Untapped Opportunity: Role of Women in Unlocking Australia’s productivity potential. Ernst & Young, Australia.

Summers, A. 2013, Gender pay gap still a disgrace. The Sydney Morning Herald. 5th January.

Baldwin, S., Wright, S., Yu, S., Fattore, T., Baird, M. & Heron, A. 2010, Profile Of Women’s Employment in NSW: Trends and Issues, Women and Work Research Group, University of Sydney.

Wetendorf, D 2007, Female Officers as Victims of Police-Perpetrated Domestic Violence viewed 28 May 2014, <http://www.dwetendorf.com/Wetendorf_FemaleOfficer.pdf>

Woodley, N 2014, Childcare subsidy cuts will hit working women and poor families hardest, Mission Australia warns viewed 28 May 2014, < http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-04/childcare-rebate-warning-over-childcare-subsidies/5236342>

Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2013, Gender pay gap statistics viewed 28 May 28 2014,