The good news from the latest taxation statistics is that the gender pay gap is getting better. The bad news is it is happening so slowly that most people working today will be long retired by the time the gap is closed.
The latest annual taxation statistics provide a wealth of data about occupation, from who is doing them to who is getting paid the most and least.
The data covers 2020-21 and so it is not surprising the occupation that suffered the most was air transport professionals. While the total number employed fell 3%, the average salary of the 14,719 individuals in this sector fell 18%. The next biggest salary decline came for travel advisers – down 15%.
At the other end of the scale, crop farm workers saw their average salary rise 19%, although they remained one of the lowest paid occupations with an average salary of just $31,164. The very highly paid financial dealers had a great 2020-21 – with their pay rising 25% to $298,228.
For a number of years now I have been using the taxation statistics to highlight gender pay gaps.
Hourly rates of pay sound wonderful but if there are two people on $35 an hour and one has just one eight-hour shift a week and the other is full-time, no one thinks they are earning the same amount.
The taxation statistics thus reveal the combination of both hourly rates but also who is getting the hours.
In March, on International Women’s Day, I noted that in 2019-20 men had a higher average salary in the most male dominated occupation of plumber (technically “construction worker – plumber – general”) and the most women-dominated occupation of midwife.
In 2020-21, that situation remained.
Among midwives, the gender pay gap closed just slightly – from 23.4% to 23.3%. For plumbers the pay gap widened – out to 35.7%, from 32.5% in 2019-20.
Once again, these extremes are not the exception.
In 95% of the 1,025 occupations with at least 50 or more workers, men had a higher average salary – from the 92 women tennis players with an average salary of $4,276 to the 1,336 male diagnostic and interventional radiologists on an average salary of $421,560.
Worse still, across the 281 occupations in which women make up more than 60% of all workers, men have a higher average salary in 246 (88%):
This, as I have reported in previous years, is nothing new. But now we have had five years of occupation data from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), we can look for signs of improvements. Alas, across the five years, there has been little change in the percent of occupations that have higher average salaries for men:
The greatest disparity lies with the highest-paying occupations. Among the Top 200 paying occupations in 2020-21, only three had women with a higher average salary: magistrates, neurosurgeons and chemical or material engineer consultants.
This reflects the overall share of income.
Women made up 47% of all taxpayers in 2020-21 but were overrepresented in the bottom five income deciles, and they accounted for just 29% of the richest 10% of taxpayers:
It is not all bad news on the gender pay front, but finding the bright spots does take some looking.
Among sports players, we do see some signs of the increasing professionalism leading to a shrinking of the gender pay gap.
In 2016-17 women made up just 21% of all professional cricketers, and the pay gap was 82%. By 2020-21 women made up 31% of all cricketers getting paid to play and the pay gap was down to 51%.
Yes, men still had an average salary double that of women, but women’s average salary had risen from $38,654 in 2016-17 to $101,092 in 2020-21. And in that same period the number of women professionally playing cricket had risen from 66 to 111.
Unfortunately, the solution of getting more women in an occupation does not always work. The share of gynaecologists who are women rose from 51% to 57% and yet the gender pay gap increased:
Among journalists, the situation is more clear. For a long time it has been a profession with more women than men, but one where men have had higher average salaries.
But the gap is closing, slowly, yes; but definitely closing:
But the good news is tempered by the reality that fewer people now work in the profession – down 6% since 2016-17.
The gender pay gap of journalists closely reflects the overall picture. While the number of occupations in which men are higher paid has hardly changed, the average gender gap within all occupations is slowly falling:
In 2016-17 the average pay gap was 21.5%. It has now fallen to 19.4%, which is good.
Yet at this rate the gender pay gap will not be fully closed until 2056. It is closing, but there is little sign it is closing faster than in the past.
Greg Jericho is a Guardian columnist and policy director at the Centre for Future Work