A new report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) says that Australia’s workforce is still highly segregated by gender.
This means that the Australian workforce has an unequal distribution of male and female workers across and within various jobs.
CEDA says the skilled migration system is adding to the problem of growing gender segregation.
It notes that female migrants are usually secondary applicants on their partner’s visa. These migrant women end up working in lower-paid occupations.
CEDA chief executive Melinda Cilento said in a statement:
“In the current tight labour market, gendered workforces contribute to labour shortages in critical occupations such as construction and aged and health care.”
Further, CEDA has highlighted the worsening gender segregation in critical industries such as construction, technology, health and education.
Ms Cilento adds:
“There is still a low proportion of women in traditionally male-dominated industries such as: construction; mining; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); and manufacturing.”
The report notes that since the 1960s, occupational segregation has declined gradually, although the differences remain large.
In its submission to the Albanese Government’s employment white paper, CEDA has made several recommendations to address Australia’s high level of occupational gender segregation.
It has recommended that Australia’s Federal Government continue to enforce corporate disclosure on gender outcomes, strengthen family-friendly policies, and evaluate data for women-in-STEM programs.
CEDA particularly pointed to the Department of Industry, Science and Resources data in STEM jobs and mentoring. It notes that the proportion of women studying and working in STEM has barely changed since 2015.
Further, it showed Australian men were still 1.8 times more likely than women to be working in a STEM-qualified field five years after completing their qualification.
CEDA says that tackling this issue requires action at all levels of business and policy-making through a persistent tight labour market.
“High gender segregation limits job mobility, stifling labour-market flexibility and productivity. It is a complex issue, driven by many economic, social and historical factors.”
In 2018, Workplace Gender Equality Agency figures showed that ONLY 12 per cent of construction workers were women, which was a significant decrease from 14 per cent in 1998. Meanwhile, the proportion of female workers in healthcare and social assistance increased to 79 per cent in 2018, which was arise from 77 per cent in 1998.
To improve gender segregation, CEDA suggests:
“Employers have a major role to play, including through blind hiring and flexible-work practices.”