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Women & Work

Women’s contribution to the workforce is vital for the economic and social independence of women and to the economic prosperity of NSW. The NSW Government recognises the need to improve gender equality in the paid workforce as well as in voluntary and unpaid work.

Workforce participation

The labour force participation rate reflects the extent to which people are active in the paid labour force and includes people who are employed, engaged in business, or looking for work. While female participation in NSW is at a record high at 59.9% in May 2018[i], challenges remain. In 2017, slightly fewer than half of the women in the NSW workforce worked part-time (44.4%), compared with one in five men (18.0%). In 2016-17, 23.9 per cent of females who were available for work but not looking, stated that caring for children was the main reason.[ii]

Workforce segregation

The occupational profile of women and men in NSW is quite different, with women dominating administrative and service delivery roles and men dominating labour oriented and management roles.[iii] This trend in occupational segregation has remained relatively unchanged over the last 10 years. When comparing industries, in 2017 health care and social assistance (77.1%) and education and training (70.4%) were female-dominated, whereas construction (88.3%), mining (87.1%), electricity, gas, water and waste services (83.6%), transport, postal and warehousing (78.6%), agriculture, forestry and fishing (72.6%) and manufacturing (70.5%) were male-dominated.

However, since 2008 the number of women employed in three of the seven traditionally male-dominated industries has increased: mining (by an annual average of 9.7%), electricity, gas, water and waste services (by an annual average of 4.2%), and construction (by an annual average of 3.5%). [iv]


[ii] ABS 6202.0 and NSW Treasury IGR. NSW Treasury (2018) 2018-19 Budget - Budget Paper 1 - Chapter 3 The Economy, https://www.budget.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/budget-2018-06/3._The_Economy-BP1-Budget_201819.pdf

[iii] The Workplace Gender Equality Agency classifies gender dominance as follows: female-dominated (60% or more women), male-dominated (40% or less women), mixed (41–59% women).

What is being done?

The NSW Government is working to  reduce barriers to women’s economic participation and increase the representation of women in senior leadership and

in traditionally male dominated industries and occupations.

Work in this area is being carried out under the NSW Women’s Strategy 2018-2022 and also through the  NSW Council for Women’s Economic Opportunity (CWEO). The NSW CWEO provides specialist advice to the NSW Government on strategies aimed at providing women with greater economic opportunities.

In 2016, the NSW Government committed $190 million over four years to Jobs for NSW, a private sector-led initiative, in order to make the NSW economy as competitive as possible and to create 1,000,000 new jobs by 2036 as part of a whole of government approach. Several strategies have been identified to achieve these aims, including increasing the workforce participation rate of women with children to 75% by 2036. Research is currently being carried out on the barriers to employment for women with children- including access to childcare- with a view to reducing disincentives for increasing hours of paid work.

In 2016 the NSW Government committed to making all roles flexible in the NSW Government sector on the basis of ‘if not, why not’ by 2019. The Public Service Commission released a flexible working strategic framework Make Flexibility Count in 2017 to guide implementation of this policy commitment across the NSW Government sector.

The NSW Government is working to increase women’s participation in underrepresented industries and occupations. Women NSW’s agenda in this area is guided by the NSW Council for Women’s Economic Opportunity (CWEO).

The CWEO provides specialist advice to the NSW Government on opportunities to enhance the representation of women across the workforce, thereby improving women’s economic opportunities.

Additional links

* ABS Labour Force, Australia survey, February 2012. 
Women in NSW Reports: Work, Leadership and Financial Security

Profile of women’s employment in NSW: trends and issues

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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019
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