Despite anti-discrimination on the basis of sex being legislated in the country in 1984, the gender pay gap has not changed significantly over the last 20 years. The gap varies across industries, with the financial and insurance services industry having the largest pay gap of 24.4 percent as of 2019. In terms of public opinion on this issue, less than 40 percent of Australians thought it likely that women would be paid the same as men for the same work in 2020.
Australia was ranked 49th in terms of the economic participation of women by the World Economic Forum 2020 Global Gender Index, which measures wages, employment, and workforce representation. This placed Australia significantly behind many other countries in the OECD, and the ranking was worse than Australia’s placing in 2018.
Despite struggling with its economic gender imbalance, Australia has been successful in closing the education gap. Gender parity exists for access to numeracy and literacy skills, and recent figures show that women are more likely than men to obtain a bachelor’s degree or above. In 2020, the majority of female university graduates employed full-time were in professional occupations.
The average life expectancy of Australian females born in 2018 was estimated to be 84.9 years - over four years older than for males. Reproductive and sexual health rights in Australia have advanced over the years, though the benefits have not been experienced uniformly across indigenous and non-indigenous populations. Although the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine was introduced in 2007, women living in remote areas or from the lowest socio-economic groups are less likely to have access to screening and treatment. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female population has a mortality rate from HPV-related diseases that is four times greater than non-indigenous women.
The future for women in Australia looks promising as Australian society and policy makers continue to strive for gender equality with initiatives like the National Women’s Health Strategy. The Strategy aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Australian women over the next decade and will focus on maternal and infant health, chronic disease, mental illness, and aging. Figures show a higher job creation rate for women compared to men, as well as an increasing labor force participation rate. Even still, it is yet to be seen whether the gender pay gap will be closed in the foreseeable future.