Opinion: We’re hearing a lot about tax this election. It’s the main lever of government and often a key differentiator between the parties.

But what about the tax most of us didn’t know we were paying, and certainly did not vote for? For many of us our pay slips are docked 10 percent, 20 percent, or even 25 percent before we get them. 

That’s gender and ethnic pay gaps for you.

‘I was duped’: The discovery I was paid tens of thousands less than a man
The Aussies have thrashed us on pay transparency
The 50th birthday of the Equal Pay Act is no cause for celebration
* It’s time we all stepped up against unjust pay gaps

Given how many of us look at our pay slips in horror, wondering how we are going to stretch those dollars until the next one, fixing pay gaps is a no-brainer. 

There are simple measures any government can put in place to level the playing field. You will have seen me advocating loudly for medium to large businesses to have to publicly report their gender and ethnic pay gaps. The research shows that introducing a law to do so will significantly reduce those gaps. 

When politicians are in your neighbourhood, interested in your vote, ask them for their views on reducing gender and ethnic pay gaps

For most businesses, this data is easily available in their pay roll (at least the gender pay gap data will be), so even though times are tight for businesses, having to report this data should incur minimal costs. 

Having to report large and unexplained gaps might, however, be costly as investors and customers expect better. 

Other measures such as making all job advertisements include pay bands and removing clauses that gag us from sharing how much we are paid will also make a difference.

Most of the nations we compare ourselves with have already made these things mandatory, and they are proven to make a difference. We can expect a 20-40 percent reduction in gender pay gaps as a result. That’s up to $35.77 more for a woman on the median wage each week.

Thanks to an excellent survey of political parties by the National Council of Women we know what some of the political parties think about gender and ethnic pay gaps.

The Greens have a comprehensive set of policies focused on reducing pay gaps. Labour has promised to introduce pay gap reporting for large businesses. National is also supportive of pay transparency but wants to do more work, especially on how to report on minority groups. The Opportunities Party is supportive with a focus on the public service. Act thinks employers and employees should have the right to determine their own employment contracts. 

For the next few weeks, we are very interesting to politicians. They want to know what we think, or more accurately, what we think of them and what they are promising.   

This means we have their attention. We can show them what matters to us. When politicians are in your neighbourhood, interested in your vote, ask them for their views on reducing gender and ethnic pay gaps. 

Pay gaps need to be history. We have the power to make them so.

Leave a comment