Department of Family and Community Services

Key findings

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A long-term trend towards greater participation in paid work is evident among NSW women, as it is among women in most developed countries. Today, 57 percent of women in NSW participate in the labour force compared to 70 percent of men. The gender difference has reduced substantially, from a difference of 36 percentage points between women and men in 1978 to 13 percentage points today. This is in part because men’s labour force participation rate has fallen.

This year’s data confirms that underemployment is almost as big a problem for women as unemployment. Despite improvement since last year, women remained more likely to experience underemployment than men by 3.2 percentage points.

The unemployment rates of non- Aboriginal women and men this year were very similar, equalising since the period following the Global Financial Crisis when women experienced higher unemployment.

Aboriginal women’s unemployment rate is nearly three times that of non- Aboriginal women; women in South Western Sydney also experience disproportionate unemployment, although the rate for women in Canterbury- Bankstown fell compared to last year.

The stabilisation of casual employment was evident this year as last and although women make up 56 percent of casual employees, men now make up a majority of fulltime casuals. New data presented this year on flexible work arrangements shows that although both sexes report having access to such arrangements, mothers are far more likely than fathers to use them to care for children. Childcare data underlined the importance of formal care for NSW’s single parent families, with 84 percent of such families using it in 2011 where the parent was employed.

Gender patterns in the jobs women and men do and the pay they receive on average remain little changed from last year. When we look at hourly pay, the gender pay gap for non-managerial employees improved slightly, with women’s hourly earnings reaching 92 percent of men’s in 2012. However, the weekly gender pay gap for all employees worsened by two percentage points, with NSW men earning 16 percent or $241 more each week than women in 2012. This is similar to the median annual pay gap.

In this year’s Report we calculate the number of hours a woman would have to work to earn as much as her male counterpart. Figure 4.1 provides some thought provoking examples, for example with women legal professionals needing to work 11 extra hours. While rates of housing affordability stress, on the whole, remained stable or improved compared to the data in last year’s Report, it is clear that many single women, and older women, are financially vulnerable and may face difficulties affording the housing available to them, especially if they live in Sydney.

The chapter points to areas where there are major differences between groups of women. Women’s unemployment rates show dramatic variation by region. Because this year Census 2011 data is available we can report on the high rate of unemployment experienced by Aboriginal women. At 15 percent in 2011, it was triple that of non- Aboriginal women.