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Man versus woman in arm wrestle

New bill hopes to deliver more flexibility for both genders

In a bid to advance gender equality in the local workforce, a new bill has been introduced through the House of Representatives with the intention of delivering greater workplace flexibility to both genders.

The newly proposed legislation, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill, aims not only to promote equal pay between men and women but also allow business to offer flexibility to both genders to fulfil family and caring commitments.

According to the latest gender pay gap figures, released late May of this year by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA), Aussie women earn $250.50, or 17.4 percent, less than men. EOWA director Helen Conway believes it’s time Australia put an end to paying lip service to gender equality and actually did something about it.

“We need to lift the participation rate of women in the workforce by removing existing disincentives. Our national productivity and competitiveness depends on it,” she said.

Leading the way with the widest gender pay gap is Western Australia, with 25.8 percent, while the ACT had the lowest gap, of 12 percent, as of February 2012.

Industry-wise, Australia’s health care and social assistance sector has the highest pay gay, of 32.6 percent, followed by the financial and insurance industry (31.3 percent), the scientific and technical sector (26.4 percent) and the mining sector (26.1 percent). The retail sector has the lowest pay gap, of 7.9 percent.

The figures are reverse in some part-time sectors. On average, female workers are being paid more than men within the administrative (-13.3 percent), labour (-5.9  percent), community/service (-4.1 percent) and sales (-4.0 percent) sectors.

If the proposed legislation is passed, the EOWA will be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, emphasising the focus from equal opportunity for women to equality between the genders. The bills must now be passed by the Senate to become lae.