SOCIOLOGY Essay Example

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Social inequality in Australia


Inequality is a part and parcel of every society, including the Australian society. Social inequality refers to unequal opportunities or discrimination in the society in terms of education, employment, pay or even health facilities (Germov, 2011). This inequality or discrimination may be based on various factors like age, health of a person, social class, disability and even skin colour. Research done by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2009- 2010, 20% of the wealthiest Australian households account for 62% of the households total net worth. This accounts for $2.2 million net worth per household in average (Australian Bureau of statistic, 2012). In a society, there are various forms of inequality caused by various factors like gender, ethnicity, race, work, religion, social class as well as education (Macionis & Plummer, 2005).

Gender inequality in Australia mainly targets the women, who are considered to be the weaker sex, and it is very rampant. Race and ethnicity also plays a major role in explaining social inequality in Australia, and this mainly affects the minority Aboriginals in Northern Australia, and Torres Strait Islander peoples (green & Saggers, 2007). Social inequality comes in many forms whereby some causal factors are cultural made, while others are not defined by man, but they are natural. Factors like social class, education as well as religion are society- constructed, while factors like race and gender are natural, and the victims have no control over them. Race and ethnicity, as well as gender, are equally important in explaining social inequality in Australia, but gender plays a bigger role than race and ethnicity.

Gender inequality in Australia

Gender inequality refers to discrimination based on the gender construction of a person by the society, basing by their sex. This social construction of gender roles defines a woman and a man or female and male, and this; in the long make people of one gender more superior than the other (Abbott, & Wallace, 2005). In most cases, it is the women who are inferior to men, hence facing the full wrath of gender inequality and discrimination. Gender discrimination is very prevalent worldwide, and this is evidenced by the various feminist movements like CEDAW, as well as the legislation governing gender discrimination, both nationally and internationally (Abbott, & Wallace, 2005). In Australia, various legislations like Work Place Gender Equality Act 2012 as well as Sex discrimination act 1984 are just but examples of the many steps put in place by the government to curb and eradicate gender inequality. Australia, for example, has had persistence in the gender pay gap: between the year 1990 and the year 2009, a narrow range of 15% and 17% was recorded for the gender pay gap (Australian Council of Trade Unions, 2012). The statistics recorded by the Australian gender pay gap was no different in August 2010, as it was 16.9%. This is evident how deeply rooted gender inequality is in the economic world, since no tangible improvement has been done for 22 years (1990- 2010) in Australia to alleviate it.

The reason why gender inequality is more important in explaining social inequality is that, gender discrimination fall on all the avenues of inequality, be it education, work, ethnicity and race or even among the marginalised and indigenous groups. A person is usually face discrimination based on these factors, and a second blow is faced especially if the victim is a woman (Abbot & Wallace, 2005). For example, the aboriginals in Australia do not enjoy all the facilities and social resources as other Australians, like education, but the aboriginal women suffer the most since the first priorities are always reserved for the men.

Race and ethnic inequality in Australia

Race and ethnic inequality is discrimination based on a person’s skin colour, and cultural practices respectively. This type of social inequality in the form of race and ethnic inequality is very rampant in Australia regardless of the efforts by the government and international organisations to alleviate it. Racial inequality is sometimes based on skin colour, nationality, religion, parentage or even other physical characteristics (Fozdar, Wilding, & Hawkins, 2009). Ethnicity is usually defined depending on the nationality or the culture that a person belongs to. Factors that are used to define race are usually physically visible, while those defining ethnicity are not usually differentiated easily(Macionis & Plummer, 2005). As brought out by the conflict theorists, generally, the base for racial and ethnic inequality is social class, which gives some people of some race and ethnicity more wealth and power than those of another race and ethnic background (Germov, 2011). In Australia, the people who face race and ethnic inequality are usually the aboriginal and the Torres Strait Islander peoples.

A census done in 2011 by Australian census concluded that the Torres Strait Islander peoples and the aboriginals comprise of 2.5% (517, 200), of the total population in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012). The Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders have faced massive racism in Australia whereby around 1869 and 1969, their children were being taken forcibly from them, under an act of parliament (Fozdar, Wilding, & Hawkins, 2009). Although in the 21st century there has been reduced racism and discrimination, the effect of the stolen generation is still felt by the minority groups even today (Green & Saggers, 2007). The aboriginals had also been denied their rights to vote, due to their ethnic and racial characteristics, until the 1967 referendum that restored their rights to vote (Australian Human rights commission, 2005). The aboriginals in Australia were also being oppressed in the education sector whereby we have the earliest graduates among the aboriginals to be from the 1960s. Even in the economic sector, inequality was and still is, in some places, present whereby the aboriginals are paid less than their fellow Australians, regardless of having the same qualifications, or even doing the same kind of work (International Labour Office, 2013).

In general, the aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islander peoples in the present day Australia do not enjoy equal facilities and opportunities like the other nationals. Effective sewerage systems, primary health care, safe drinking water, proper infrastructure healthy housing and rubbish collection services, are services and facilities that the aboriginals know exist and are entitled to, but they do not enjoy them (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2005). There is slow improvement in reducing and finally eradicating race and ethnic inequality in the present day Australia, and this type of social conflict may go on for more decades to come.

Gender versus race and ethnicity in explaining social inequality

Sociologists place a lot of importance in the study of social inequality, and the social scholars also try to provide solutions for social inequality, as it brings about social conflicts among the social actors (Macionis & Plummer, 2005). The scholars attribute the social institutions like education, marriage, religion, rules and regulations as well as social classes as the main contributors to social inequality. Gender plays a very essential role in explaining social inequality, so is race and ethnicity. However, it is true that gender plays a bigger role in explaining social inequality in the present day Australia than race and ethnicity.

It is true that, despite the various legislations put in place by the Australian government to alleviate race and ethnic inequality, it is still present in some parts of the country, especially to the Aboriginals who are still the minority in Australia (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2005). Gender inequality, on the other hand, in Australia is experienced by people of all races and ethnic groups and not only the indigenous groups. Gender inequality is prevalent in the social, political and even in the economic arena in Australia. Yes, the aboriginal women go through race and ethnic discrimination because they are aboriginals, and they suffer another blow in the form of gender inequality from their men as well as other people (Abbott, & Wallace, 2005).

The gender pay gap in Australia says it all about the importance of gender in explaining social inequality (International Labour Office, 2013). According to research done by Australian Council of trade unions in 2010, women in Australia who work full- time earn 18% less than their male counterparts, and this amounts to $ 1 million in a lifetime. Of all the ASX200 companies in Australia, less than 2% of them have women as their CEOs, and among 12 board members, only one is a woman (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2013). This shows the avid levels of gender inequality in the economic sector in Australia, as this is the cumulative for all women regardless of the race or ethnic group (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2005). Despite doing the same type and amount of work with men, women are still expected to more if not all the domestic work at home.

Religious beliefs give men a superior position in the family and society than their female counterparts. Christians, Muslims and other religious beliefs and practices in the present day Australia still magnify the position of the men in the society (Macionis & Plummer, 2005). This is because, all the prestigious and powerful positions in the religion hierarchy are occupied by men and in some affiliation like in the Catholic Church, these positions are reserved for men only (Abbott, & Wallace, 2005). This inequality in the religion sector cut across race and ethnic groups, but for the Aboriginal women, they suffer a double discrimination; first as an Aboriginal, and second as a woman. This is because; the society always views the men as the superior being, hence being given the first priority.


Since the beginning of capitalism and private ownership of property, social inequality has always dominated the society. Even in the earlier society where everything was communally owned, there was still inequality since the leaders were accorded more respect than the other people (Germov, 2011). However, some forms of inequality like race and ethnic inequality were not present in the communal community. Gender inequality on the other hand was still present in the division of labour, whereby, women were still expected to carry out all the domestic work, which, according to the society, was insignificant as compared to what the men did; providing for the family (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2013). Again, the position of the man in the family has always been, and still is the head of the family, thereby making him a little superior than the women. Private ownership of property did introduce race and ethnic inequality, but it only perpetuated the already present gender inequality (Abbott, & Wallace, 2005). In conclusion gender is more important in explaining social inequality than race and ethnicity because gender inequality has cut across time, generations, culture and space.


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