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Women risk being left behind in COVID recovery as pay gap widens

August 31, 2021 / Our Watch media team

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Our Watch has pointed to the growing gender pay gap, now at $261.5 per week, as evidence that women have been disproportionately affected by the impact of COVID-19, sounding the alarm that women are at risk of being left behind in the pandemic recovery.

Our Watch is calling on all areas of society to implement practices and policies to address gender inequality, to tackle the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. 

On this Equal Pay Day (Tuesday, 31 August), the gender pay gap has risen to 14.2 per cent with many female-dominated industries hardest hit by the economic fallout from COVID. Women in caring professions such as early childhood education and care, health care and aged care, have experienced job losses and cuts to hours. In parallel women workers across the board have experienced a rise in unpaid carer demands.  

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), found that the gender pay gap has risen by 0.8 per cent over the past six months, to a difference of $261.50 per week between women and men, working full-time. 

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said it was vital that decision makers understood the link between gender inequality and violence against women and that the gender pay gap is a clear example of the inequality faced by women. 

“Tragically, we have seen since the onset of COVID-19 a rise in the incidence and severity of domestic and family violence. We know that inequality, including economic inequality, is one of the underlying drivers of violence against women,” Ms Kinnersly said. 

“Making sure that women are not left behind in the economic recovery from COVID will benefit the whole of our community. 

“We need governments to apply a gendered approach to all policies, for example ensuring that economic stimulus packages do not disproportionately benefit male-dominated industries. 

“Workplaces also have a critical role to play in improving gender equality. They need to make flexible work arrangements genuinely available for women and men, encourage women’s career progression and ensure that their policies and processes address discrimination and inequality.” 

Ms Kinnersly supported calls by WGEA for workplaces to conduct gender pay audits with the aim of identifying and eliminating discriminatory pay. However, she noted that the pay gap research did not consider other forms of discrimination such as racism, ableism, ageism and homophobia. 

“We need to take more steps to understand other forms of inequality, such as how cultural background, age, ability or sexuality is used to discriminate in workplaces and how this can widen the gender pay further. “ 

Ms Kinnersly said that understanding the intersect of these inequalities, combined with the long-term economic impact of COVID was crucial in order to progress towards gender equality for all.  

“It is essential that workplaces remain focused on advancing gender equality for their staff and stakeholders.  

“In order to advance this work, Our Watch’s Workplace Equality and Respect gives workplaces freely available standardsprocesses and tools to identify and reform organisational practices that devalue, exclude or marginalise women.

“Implementing these standards in all Australian workplaces, which includes identifying and eliminating the gender pay gap will help accelerate progress towards an Australia free of violence against women. 

“All women deserve to be not only safe, but respected, valued and treated equally. That is a fundamental human right.” 


This Equal Pay Day Our Watch encourages workplaces to: 

Media contact

Shannon McKeogh, Senior Media and Communications Advisor (shannon.mckeogh@ourwatch.org.au or 0412 612 039) or media@ourwatch.org.au 

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline: 

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.” 

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change. 

Find out more about our work to end violence against women in Australia.

The evidence
Woman holding baby.