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Gender Equity And Work/Family Policy Reform In Australia. Progress And Prospects CENTRE FOR WORK + LIFE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA Barbara Pocock, Sara.

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Presentation on theme: "Gender Equity And Work/Family Policy Reform In Australia. Progress And Prospects CENTRE FOR WORK + LIFE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA Barbara Pocock, Sara."— Presentation transcript:

1 Gender Equity And Work/Family Policy Reform In Australia. Progress And Prospects CENTRE FOR WORK + LIFE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA Barbara Pocock, Sara Charlesworth, Natalie Skinner and Claire Hutchinson

2 5 years of work-family reform…  In Australia  Driven by claims and mobilisation of feminists, unionists, government, some in business Backed by a body of evidence and research Encouraged by tight labour market and Rising female participation, declining men’s  Reforms are modest in scope  But better than in many other places (eg US)  A strong economy at present perhaps enables more…

3 5 years of wide ranging reform… 1. Government funded Paid Parental Leave 2. Government support for pay equity for some categories of paid care workers 3. Extension of anti-discrimination protections for workers with family responsibilities 4. Childcare reforms 5. Reform of labour law National employment standards National awards, overlaid with enterprise agreements Including limited right to request flexibility (RTR)

4 However, continuing gender inequity 1. Pay inequity (including in retirement income) 2. Women’s responsibility for unpaid, domestic work 3. Sex-segregation of occupations and management/leadership 4. Declines in job quality for some (job security, conditions) 5. Work/life pressures, time pressures especially for mothers, carers

5 1. Pay equity  Women earn around 83% men’s earnings (full-time average ordinary time earnings)  85% in 2005  Most of the gap explained by ‘being a woman’  25% by industry segregation  Cost in labour market participation  Estimated at A$93 bn (NATSEM, 2010), 8.5% GDP as women work less because of lower pay

6 2. Responsibility for unpaid, domestic work  Women do twice as much as men. Persistently.  “Twenty-five years of exhortations and demands have not substantially increased the contribution made by men to the total unpaid work performed…” (Bittman, 2010: 32)  Women adapt, do less, turn to market provision – and that has narrowed the gender gap a little.  But it remains wide, despite convergence of participation rates in paid work.

7 3. Sex-segregation of occupations and management/leadership  Occupational sex-segmentation in Australia very marked in international comparison  No signs of reduction  Growth in feminised services sector  Women’s share of leadership, management positions in Australia very low by international comparison. 8.4% of ASX 200 board directors (lower than UK, UK Canada, South Africa, New Zealand) 54% of ASX boards have no women Lower share of Executive Key Management Personnel than US, UK, Canada, South Africa.

8 4. Job quality (job security, conditions)  2 million casual workers in Australia (24% of labour force)  Employed on a ‘shift to shift’ basis  Though many work long term on this basis  More than half are women  No paid holidays or sick leave (a loading to compensate – but does not adequately)  Poor conditions, low retirement benefits

9 5. Work/life pressures, time pressures Mothers work-life conflict worse than amongst those working 48 hours a week or working more than they would prefer

10 5 years of reform… 1. Government funded Paid Parental Leave 2. Government support for pay equity for some categories of paid care workers 3. Extension of anti-discrimination protections for workers with family responsibilities 4. Childcare reforms 5. Reform of labour law National employment standards National awards, overlaid with enterprise agreements Including limited right to request flexibility (RTR)

11 1. Government funded Paid Parental Leave from 1 January 2011  18 weeks government funded Paid leave  At minimum wage (about $590 a week, pre-tax) If earn less than $150,000/yr worked for at least 10 of the 13 months prior to birth worked for at least 330 hours in that 10 month period (just over one day a week) with no more than an 8 week gap between two consecutive working days.  Others have more through employer, bargaining Academics, public sector, large companies, banks…  From 1 Jan 2013, partner paid leave 2 weeks  Unpaid leave: If employed for 12 months or more prior to birth or adoption, entitled to up to 12 months unpaid parental leave. Can also request an additional 12 months unpaid leave on top of this

12 2. Government support for pay equity for some paid care workers

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15 3. Anti-discrimination protections for workers with family responsibilities  Anti-discrimination law from 1970s Discrimination in employment on basis of race, sex and marital status Pregnancy and more recently care responsibilities added  Emergence in Victoria of new type of discrimination: ‘unreasonable failure to accommodate an employee’s care responsibilities’ (Chapman, 2012: 5)  2011 Commonwealth and most states discrimination on grounds of family responsibilities extended beyond dismissal to all aspects of employment incl promotion and hiring Only ‘direct’ discrimination – not indirect

16  Victoria, NT and NSW (arguably) also include ‘an obligation on employers to provide a level of accommodation for an employee’s care responsibilities’ (Chapman 2012: 9)  Thus provide some avenues for greater support for working carers But relies on individual complaints Relatively small number of cases Outcomes tend to reinforce care=women, not men/fathers

17 4. Childcare  Government funding has increased significantly Financial assistance began in $4.4bn in 2012/13 (DEEWR, 2010: 2) Rationales: labour market participation and early childhood development 600,000+ families use  Growth in services but shortages in some areas (eg under 2s in big cities)  Greater focus on quality  Means tested government subsidies to parents for approved childcare – affordable for many families  Collapse of private provider (ABC Learning) has led to fall in for- profit share of provision, more stability  Current debate about subsidising nannies and providing tax- deductability – but minority, wealthy users…

18 5. Labour law reform - Right to request

19 Fair Work Act 2009  New ‘right to request’ (RTR) from1 Jan 2010  Gives working parents of preschoolers or children under 18 with a disability the right to request flexibility  a duty for the employer to consider ‘reasonably’

20 Compared to other countries  ‘light touch’, modest right, constrained access  Weak enforcement – only in relation to process  Similar in spirit to UK, the Netherlands, Germany and New Zealand – but generally weaker

21 RTR and work-life outcomes?  Data sources and methods: Australian Work and Life Index surveys 2009, 2012 (and 2014 in the future) Cross-sectional CATI surveys AWALI 2009 N = 2691, AWALI 2012 N =2492 Random digit dialling; stratified random sample by geographic location; quotas for gender & age Representative sample of Aust. employed population. 50.6% response amongst those contacted by phone Also conducting interviews….

22 Who sought flexibility? MenWomenAll

23 Who sought flexibility? MenWomenAll

24 Awareness of new right 2 years on  Majority not aware of RTR  Of parents of preschoolers  Only a third of fathers aware  A quarter of mothers aware  So perhaps not surprising that we find no increase in proportion of respondents seeking flexibility

25 Rates of request making, 2 years on  20.6% had made a request over previous 12 months - Down from 22.4% in 2009  Gender gap in request making narrowed Men – not much change Women – smaller proportion asking 24.2% 2012, 29.1% 2009)  Slight increase for fathers of children under % in 2012, 17.1% in 2009  Slight decrease for mothers of children >5 43.0% in 2012, from 47.8% in 2009

26 Granting, refusal?  As pre-RTR, most are granted  61.9% fully  19.1% partially  13.2% refused  Men more likely to be refused than women (17.4% compared with 9.8% women)

27 Effect on work-life interference?  Significantly better when request granted for both women and men  Fully granted much better for women than partially granted  No difference for men  Worse work-life interference for those refused

28 Conclusion  Significant policy changes in Australia  But significant gender gaps remain  Time pressures, pay gap, segmentation, domestic and care work  Effectiveness of implementation of new policies matters  Eg Knowledge of new rights  And how they interact with other regulations (eg awards, individual flexibility agreements) which may be much more important in shaping gendered regimes of work and care

29 Conclusion  Powerful gender cultures in workplaces and social life work mean that gender inequalities are not necessarily narrowed by particular policies  Especially where limited, individualised and not scrutinised  And some entrench gender inequality because women remain responsible for sustaining work and family  And attempt to combine work and family life (eg through part-time work and requests for flexibility) but do not experience, as they do so, either Improvements in the terms and conditions of paid work Or more equal distribution of unpaid work and care

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