Women have always made a crucial contribution to Australia’s economic and social progress. But that contribution is not always measured or acknowledged appropriately. Traditionally, women performed much of their work at home, without pay: managing households, businesses, and farms, and caring for family members. When they did work in the formal, paid labour market, their work was often devalued: considered “inferior,” paid less than men, and held back by many economic and social hurdles. Women were denied economic independence, and as a result faced inequality and often abuse: both in the workplace and within their families.
While Australia is still far from achieving gender equality, this undervaluing of women’s role in our economy and society is certainly changing. A record-high proportion of women now participate in the paid labour market (though still significantly less than for men). Women bring superior educational qualifications and great ambition to their jobs. They account for a majority of work performed in many important, growing industries – including caring services like health care, community services, and education. Women’s pay has been inching up towards men’s, but the gender gap is still surprisingly large – and the most commonly-cited statistics on the pay gap don’t tell the whole story.
To support policy development and advocacy aimed at reducing gender inequality, we have developed this comprehensive Factbook that describes the all-round economic and social status of women in Australia. It presents a wide range of indicators describing the status of Australian women today in numerous areas of life: work, income, education and training, family life, safety, retirement, and more.