In a landmark ruling, the Federal Court of Australia has struck down the nation’s discriminatory laws against women.
The ruling, in a case called Mabo v NSW, comes as the country faces a new wave of inequality and social isolation caused by the “gender pay gap” that was exposed by the landmark 2016 report by former Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
In the wake of the report, which was a joint project of The Australian Institute of Political Studies and the University of Sydney’s Centre for Economic Performance, more than 1,200 Australian businesses were required to post gender-neutral policies.
The report found that the vast majority of these businesses had not adopted any policies to combat the gender pay gap.
More than 60 per cent of all businesses were either not taking action at all or had done little to implement gender-inclusive policies.
One in five businesses did not have a policy on gender diversity.
The law on gender-blind employment was enacted in 2010.
It requires all businesses to post all policies on their websites, on their website forums, in their business cards, and in any marketing materials.
But the Gender Pay Gap Report (GPS) published by Gillard in 2012 found that women accounted for just 13 per cent, or 0.7 per cent on average, of all executive positions in Australia’s businesses.
The majority of companies had no gender-conscious policies.
“This ruling sends a very clear message that Australia has no gender discrimination laws,” Professor Sarah Jones, co-director of the Centre for Equity Research at the University and co-author of the GPS report, told ABC News.
“There are businesses out there who do have gender-sensitive policies, and that’s fine.
But if they don’t follow the rules, then they are breaking the law.”
The GPS report found there was a significant gender pay inequality in Australia, with women earning 77 per cent less than men.
“In Australia, men and women make the same amount, so it makes a lot of sense that the gap should be larger,” Professor Jones said.
“The only thing that makes a difference is that the law is gender-based, which is not the case in other countries.”
Gender-inclusivity policies in Australia The gender pay gaps have been a concern for a long time.
In 2011, a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that about one-third of women in Australia are paid less than their male counterparts.
In 2014, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report on women in the workforce, which showed that women in particular were less likely to get promotions than men because they were more likely to be promoted within their companies.
“Australia’s policies around gender pay are deeply rooted in the country’s colonial past and have been reinforced over the decades,” Professor Joanna Brierley, a researcher with the Australian Institute for Gender Studies, told the ABC.
Professor Brierleys report also noted that in 2014, Australia was ranked number nine out of 180 countries for the gender wage gap. “
It’s a fact that women and men have different careers trajectories and careers, and the gender-related inequality we see is a consequence of those differences.”
Professor Brierleys report also noted that in 2014, Australia was ranked number nine out of 180 countries for the gender wage gap.
Australia’s current legislation does not cover gender-specific policies for workplaces.
“What we need is to take the existing legislation and put in place policies to ensure all Australian workplaces have gender inclusive policies and that women are treated equally across the workplace,” Professor Briersley said.
Professor Jones also said the law on pay discrimination does not address gender-biased policies in public sector workplaces, like public transport.
“One of the main issues for women in Australian public sector is that there are very few women in senior roles and, in fact, most women are not senior people in public sectors,” she said.
The Gender Pay Discrimination Act was passed in 2015 and requires all public employers to have a gender-insensitive policy and a policy for equal pay for equal work.
“We believe it is in the public interest that all women are given equal pay,” Professor Gillard said at the time.
“I think there are plenty of women who have done the work, but they’re still paid the same as men.”
The Gender Equality Act came into force in 2019.
It states that all public and private sector employers are required to provide equal pay to all employees regardless of gender, race, ethnic background, disability or age.