Prepared by: Susanna Baldwin, Sally Wright, Serena Yu and Toby Fattore (Workplace Research Centre, University of Sydney) Dr Marian Baird and Alexandra Heron

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Profile of Women’s Employment in NSW:
Trends and Issues

Final Report

Prepared for the Office for Women’s Policy

NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet

November 25, 2010 (Revised August 2011)
Contact Details
Prepared by:

Susanna Baldwin, Sally Wright, Serena Yu and Toby Fattore (Workplace Research Centre, University of Sydney)

Dr Marian Baird and Alexandra Heron (Women and Work Research Group, University of Sydney)

Name and Title of Contact Persons

Dr Marian Baird

Professor of Employment Relations

Telephone: (02) 9351 6439

Facsimile: (02) 9351 4729


Alexandra Heron

Research Associate

Women and Work Research Group

Telephone: (02) 9351 7605


ABN: 15 211 513 464

WRC, The University of Sydney

Storie Dixson Wing H10

Institute Building

The University of Sydney NSW 2006


Contents 14

Executive Summary 15

Glossary of terms 21

Introduction 24

Objectives 24

Key questions 24

Report structure 25

Methodology and data sources 26

Scope of the study 26

Review of existing statistics on women’s working lives in NSW 26

Literature review 29

1.What is the status of women in the NSW labour market? 31

How many women are in employment and participating in the labour force? 32

Participation and employment rates 32

NSW compared to the other States 32

How many women are unemployed or underemployed? 35

2.In what occupations and industries do women in NSW work? 38

How many women work in the public and private sectors? 38

What industries do women work in? 38

What occupations do women work in? 40

How many women are self-employed? 45

3 What are the work patterns and working time arrangements of women in NSW? 47

What are women’s part-time working patterns in NSW? 47

How do we explain the increase in part-time work? 48

Where are part-time jobs and employees? 49

Do women’s employment patterns vary by age? 49

How many hours do women work? 51

Working time preferences: are women satisfied with the hours they work? 52

Why do women work part-time? 52

Are women who work part-time happy with the hours they work? 52

What are part-time workers' working conditions? 54

What would good quality part-time work look like? 55

How would promoting quality part-time work help? 56

Change at the workplace level 56

How many women are in casual and permanent employment? 59

Casual employment and its risks 59

What is the nature of women’s movement between casual and permanent jobs? 61

Preferences and constraints 62

4. How much do women in NSW earn and how is their pay set? 63

Do women earn as much as men? 64

How is women’s pay set? 68

5.How many women in NSW have access to paid leave? 72

General paid leave entitlements – how many women have paid leave entitlements? 72

6.How do women in NSW balance paid employment with their child caring and other caring responsibilities? 78

How many women provide care in NSW? 79

How do women’s child care responsibilities affect their labour market activity? 80

How does women’s care for older people and people with disabilities affect their labour market activity? 83

What work arrangements do women use to care? 84

How much unpaid domestic work do women perform? 88

7.How do women in NSW fare in retirement? 90

Coverage of superannuation 91

Accumulation of superannuation balances 91

Redressing the balance(s) 94

8.How involved are women in trade unions in NSW? 96

What are the trends in union membership in NSW? 96

9.What are the labour market experiences of different groups of women? 99

What is women’s level of educational attainment in NSW? 99

What is the impact of being located in regional or remote areas in NSW on women’s working lives? 101

How do women of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds fare in the labour market? 103

How do women with disabilities fare in the labour market? 104

Working in the NSW public sector with a disability 107

How do Aboriginal women fare in the labour market? 107

References 118

Appendices 124

Appendix One: Data Sources Used 124

Appendix Two: Average Weekly Earnings by Industry 128

Appendix Three: Union Membership by Industry 129

Executive Summary

This report presents a profile of women’s employment and their experience in the New South Wales (NSW) labour market. The report has been commissioned by the Office for Women’s Policy, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, to provide the most up to date available information on women’s labour force status in NSW.

The methodology employed in this report comprises a review of existing statistics on women’s working lives in NSW and a comprehensive literature review and analysis on women’s quality part-time work. The report brings together existing statistical collections in NSW and Australia to provide a statistical profile of women’s working lives in NSW. Analysis of the primary data was supplemented with a range of secondary sources that assisted in explaining differences between women and men, different groups of women and changes in the labour market status of women over time. A review of the academic literature on quality part-time work was also undertaken and incorporated into the report.
Chapter 1 reviews the status of women in the NSW labour market. The key findings are:

  • NSW is the most populous state of Australia; there were 7,195,050 residents as at December 2009 (ABS 3101.0)

  • nationally, NSW represents approximately 31% of Australia’s labour force

  • based upon the most recent data, in NSW there are 3,625,853 females and 3,563,652 males

  • 1,671,423 females and 2, 029,971 males are in the NSW labour force

  • the NSW female labour force represents approximately 13% of the national labour force

  • the female participation rate is 55.7% in 2010 having risen steadily from 44% in 1980

  • the unemployment rate for women in NSW is 5.1%, and for men, 5.4%

  • the female underemployment rate was 10% compared to 5.6% for males (underemployment rates have been consistently 3% or more higher than for males)

  • the underutilisation rate for women is 15.2%, for men it is 10.8%

Chapter 2 considers the occupations and industries where women in NSW work. The key findings are:

  • 15% of women are employed in the NSW public sector, making the NSW public sector the largest employer of women in NSW

  • 60.9% of NSW public sector employees are women

  • industries with a high proportion of female employees include health care and social assistance (79% female), education and training (69%), accommodation and food services (58%) and retail trade (54%). Over half of all women in NSW are employed in these four industries

  • occupations with high proportions of women in NSW include: sales workers (12% of all employed women), clerical and administrative workers (24%), community and personal service workers (13%) and professionals (28%)

  • part-time working arrangements are most common for women employed as sales workers (72%), labourers (63%), and community/personal service workers (59.5%)

  • part-time arrangements are less common amongst professional (30.8%) and managerial (18.3%) occupations, particularly in areas such as engineering (18.5%) and information and communications technology (6.7%)

  • across almost all occupations, the percentage of women working part-time is greater than the percentage of men working part-time in the same occupation

  • of all women employed in NSW in 2008, 11.9% were self-employed, compared to 19.5% of men

  • of those self-employed, 33.6% were women

Chapter 3 considers the work patterns and working time arrangements of women in NSW.

The key findings are:

  • 45% of women, compared to 17% of men, are employed part-time

  • women 15-19 years (66.9%), 35-44 years (46.7%) and women 65 years and older (63%) have the highest proportions of part-time employment among women

  • 40% of women working in NSW felt they had no control over the number of hours worked or when they were worked

  • women in dual-income households were more likely to have a preference for fewer hours than female breadwinner households

  • just under a half (44%) of all women's employment and just over half (55%) of their part-time employment are in female dominated industries – retail trade, accommodation and food services, administrative and support services, and health care/social assistance

  • full-time female workers tend to work fewer weekly hours than their male counterparts in NSW, working 39.1 hours compared to 42.7 (part-time hours are more comparable, with women working an average 17.4 hours compared to 16.5 for men)

  • 56% of part-time women workers in NSW agreed that they had control over the number of hours they worked

  • 25% of NSW female workers in dual earner households said that they would prefer to work less hours, more so than single working women (15%) – this may be partly explained by income stress experienced by single income households

The key patterns of women’s employment in NSW are:

  • 70.4% of women in the NSW workforce are employed on a permanent basis compared to 79.8% of men (a similar pattern is evident at the national level)

  • 29.6% of employed women in the NSW workforce are employed casually compared to 19.3% of men, and of these, four in five are part-time casuals (compared to one in two men)

  • less than a quarter of women in casual employment in 2008 and/or 2009 moved into permanent employment by 2009 (once permanently employed, they were likely to remain in permanent employment)

  • the extensive casualisation of women's part-time employment results in many women working in poor quality jobs lacking in basic employment rights

Chapter 4 reviews how much women in NSW earn and how their pay is set. The key results for women’s pay are:

  • the average weekly ordinary full-time earnings of women in NSW is $1,145.70, compared to $1,354.70 for men in NSW (this translates into an annual pay rate of $59,576.40 for women and $70,444.40 for men)

  • regardless of the method of calculation, on average, women in NSW are paid less than men – the same is true at the national level

  • male average weekly ordinary full-time earnings in NSW continue to be around 18% higher than average weekly ordinary full-time earnings for females

  • using average weekly ordinary full-time earnings as the measure, the gender pay gap has narrowed slightly between 1995 and 2010, from men earning 22% more in 1995 to 18% more in 2010 (the gender pay gap was as high as 23% in 2000 and as low as 15% in 2004)

  • excluding managerial employees, and on an hourly basis, the average pay gap in NSW is currently around 10.6%

  • nationally, the gender pay gap increases over a lifetime, peaking at 25% for workers between the ages of 50-54 (for full-time employees); for junior employees (15-19 years), the gender pay gap is less than 5%

  • the gender pay gap is also evident in the work that children perform

  • the main methods of settings women’s pay are registered collective agreements (42.6%) and unregistered individual agreements (i.e. common law contracts) (32.2%)– approximately 19.9% of women’s pay is set by Award

  • women in NSW are over-represented in low paying industries such as retail trade and accommodation/food services; there is also a more distinct gender pay gap in high paying industries such as financial services, professional services, and health care

  • women whose wages are award reliant are likely to earn less than those whose wages are determined via collective or individual agreements (critically, women in part-time or casual employment are more likely to be award reliant. Related to this, women in the accommodation/food services, retail trade and administrative services are likely to be award reliant)

Chapter 5 considers the issue of access to paid leave. The key results relating to leave entitlements are:

  • across Australia, 62.3% of female employees have access to paid leave entitlements (defined as having employer provided and paid sick leave, and/or holiday leave), compared to 60.6% of male employees)

  • 24.8% of female employees do not have access to paid leave entitlements (compared to 15.7% of males)1

  • given that approximately 30% of women in NSW are employed casually, almost a third of women do not have access to paid leave entitlements

  • for female employees in Australia, the occupation groups with the highest percentage of paid leave entitlements are managers (91.7%), professionals (87.8%) and clerical and administrative workers (82.6%)

  • Australian women in the accommodation/food industry, or working as labourers, sales workers or community/personal services workers are less likely to receive paid leave entitlements

  • Australia wide, 49% of women receive paid parental leave entitlements. (compared to 42% of men)

  • nationally, women working full-time have much greater access to paid parental leave than part-time women employees

  • access to parental leave entitlements is greater for high skilled workers in managerial (48%) and professional roles (58%) (in contrast, around 15% of lower skilled labourers and sales workers have access to these entitlements)

  • paid parental leave entitlements are far more extensively available in the public sector than the private sector

Chapter 6 looks at how women in NSW balance paid employment with their child caring and other responsibilities.

The findings relating to women balancing work and care responsibilities are:

  • 31% of women in NSW provided unpaid child care in 2006, compared to 23% of men

  • 74% of women in NSW reported having spent time on unpaid domestic work, in contrast to 63% of men

  • as well as more women undertaking care, more women are primary carers and commit more hours to care responsibilities than men

  • women in NSW are more likely than men to provide care to older people, people with disabilities and children who aren’t their own

  • women who provided care to a person with a disability, long-term health condition and an older person were more than twice as likely as men to take the role of primary carer for that individual

  • households in NSW with children under the age of 15 are likely to have a male full-time earner and a female part-time earner

  • in couples with children under 15, 13.8% of working women work part-time, compared to 2.2% of men, and 9.3% of women work full-time compared to 26% of men

  • women and men in NSW most commonly used paid leave and flexible working hours to care for another person (the other most common work arrangements used by women are part-time work, casual work, or unpaid leave; men are most likely to use rostered days off)

  • 31% of Australian women who are willing to work but not actively looking (hidden unemployment) cite care responsibilities as their main reason for not looking for work

  • 21% of children under the age of 12 years in NSW attended formal child care, 28% of children were looked after by extended family or other informal care arrangements and 58% of children had no usual child care arrangements. No usual child care arrangements means they did not use any formal (such as preschool or long day care) or informal care arrangements (such as care by extended family)

Chapter 7 reviews female retirement incomes, including women’s superannuation arrangements, within the context of the national policy environment. The key results relating to the adequacy of women’s retirement income are:

  • women in NSW continue to have lower levels of superannuation coverage than men, with 63% coverage of women and 73% of men

  • the median employer contribution per year for women in Australia was $2,598, compared to $3,607 for men (data unavailable for NSW) (women are over-represented in lower income groups with the consequence that the average employer contribution for women remains below that for men)

  • for those still in work, women had an average superannuation balance of $52,272 with a median value of $18,489 (by contrast, men’s balances averaged $87,589 with a median value of $31,252)

  • superannuation coverage decreases with age – 41% of women aged over 55 were covered by superannuation in 2007 compared to 60% of men; 84% of women aged between 24 and 54 years had super coverage, compared to approximately 90% of men

  • for those aged 60-64, the average gap between the superannuation balances of men and women was $58,500 or 30% (Rothman and Tellis, 2008)

  • women’s relatively low lifetime earnings contribute to continued gender gaps in retirement incomes and time out of the workforce in the early working years, due to child care, has a compounding effect (Jefferson, 2009); publicly-administered pension schemes that are independent of employment, tend to deliver more favourable outcomes to women

  • those under 18 or paid less than $450 per month do not attract compulsory employer superannuation contributions

Chapter 8 examines trade union membership among female employees in NSW. The key results with respect to trade union membership are:

  • union membership has fallen from 41% to 21% in NSW in the last 20 years (the fall has been less pronounced amongst women, falling from 35% to 21%)

  • union membership among female employees in NSW has decreased by 14%; from 35% in 1990 to 21% in 2009

  • union density is highest for women in the Education and Training industry (41%), and for men, in the electricity, gas, water and waste services industry (46%)

  • union density for men and women is considerably higher in the public sector (46%) than it is in the private sector (14%)

  • women whose pay is set by collective agreement receive better pay outcomes than those who are award reliant (fostering workplace environments that support women to join a union is ultimately likely to bring about improvements in their pay and conditions)

Chapter 9 profiles the labour market experiences of several different groups of NSW women – women with different educational attainment levels, women located in regional or remote areas, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal women and women with disabilities. The key findings with respect to these segments of the female population are:

  • the proportion of women in NSW with a non-school qualification has increased from 47.4% in 2001 to 56.8% in 2009, but remains lower than that for males (57.7%)

  • the level of women in NSW with tertiary qualifications has increased four-fold between 1991 and 2009 (from 6.9% to 26.6%), surpassing the level of tertiary qualification for men in NSW (22.7%)

  • regional differences are strongly apparent with respect to participation and unemployment rates (low female participation rates are evident in the Canterbury/Bankstown, Central Western Sydney, Richmond-Tweed and the Murray regions, and high female unemployment rates persist in the Canterbury/Bankstown and Gosford/Wyong regions

  • women who speak Southwest and Central Asian languages at home are the least likely to be employed either full-time (18%) or part-time (13%) and the most likely not to be in the labour force (62%) as a percentage within their own language group

  • women in NSW with a disability are less likely than men to enter the labour force, and those who do are far less likely to be working full-time

  • Aboriginal women have a vastly different experience of the labour market than non-Aboriginal women (unemployment among Aboriginal women in NSW declined from 13.9% in 1992 to 8.8% in 2006

  • according to the Census data, half of Aboriginal women in NSW remained outside the labour force in 2006

  • Aboriginal women are less likely to be in the labour force, and more likely to be unemployed compared to non-Aboriginal women

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