Wages are low among hospitality workers, who are disproportionately female. Shutterstock
Debate around gender pay gap often gravitates towards the higher-wage end of the labour market but it misses the employees at the other end of the pay spectrum – those who receive the legal minimum wage for their job. It’s the gender pay gap among these low-wage workers we should be most concerned about.
In 2016, almost a quarter of Australian jobs were paid at the minimum or “award” rate, a rate that is in most cases set by the Fair Work Commission. It might seem like there should no gender pay gap among minimum-wage workers, since by definition they are all being paid the minimum wage. However, there are in fact many different minimum wages in Australia.
There are currently 122 federal awards, covering a variety of industries and occupations, and with each specifying numerous different minimums depending on things like the tasks and duties of the job and the qualifications and experience of the employee.
This, combined with the fact that men and women differ considerably in the types of jobs they do, means it is still possible for a gender pay gap to exist among minimum-wage workers.