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Women and the IR changes

Justine Eversson

Philosophical undercurrents

• Neo-liberal economics and a deregulated labour market - Men will always do better than women under these conditions

• Social and moral conservatism - Women are homemakers - Men are breadwinners

• This is not our world or our labour market

• These philosophical currents operating separately, together or at cross-purpose deepen inequality - especially for women

"We need a new gender politic to move forward."

IR changes worst for women

• More women will be low paid - Women already over represented in low paid sector in Australia - 18 per cent women, 12 per cent of men - Glimpse into our future

· UK low paid - 31 per cent of women, 13 per cent of men

· USA low paid - 33 per cent of women, 20 per cent of men

(Note: figures under-representative because based on fulltime workers; source: OECD 1996, from Watson et al., forthcoming)

· Women will have lower pay

- Bottom will fall out of minimum wage - Lose penalty rates, overtime, allowances

· more women are casual, work weekends, and rely on these rates in take home pay eg retail NZ - Women will go on AWAs

· 1 in 4 women currently on awards

· eg Pharmacy Guild already have a template AWA - Gender gap under AWAs is 20 per cent, awards 0 per cent - Low paid workers are not upwardly mobile

• Women will have less control over hours - Hours flexibility employers - For employees further fracturing and loss of certainty - AWA research shows hours and pay are focal point of employer concentration - Hours critical to make work and family/life balance

• Women will have fewer entitlements - Paid maternity leave will go further into management discretion - No sign of paid paternity leave

• Women will have even less job security - High numbers of casual and part time workers - Move in and out of the labour market to have children - Churn in the low wage sector - Unfair dismissal in the low wage sector - State contractor deeming provisions under threat - cleaners and outworkers

• Heavily regulated unions vs. unregulated employers - Women fair better under union agreements

Work and family/life balance

• All this adds up to less support to combine work and parenting responsibilities

• Women's choices are further constrained

• Some women may be forced into working low paid, insecure jobs to keep themselves and families out of poverty

• More women will be discouraged from entering or encouraged to leave the labour market due to low wage jobs and tax disincentives and high childcare costs

Women are the solution

• Women are at the front line of disadvantage

• There is no solution to deepening inequality without women

• We need a new gender politic to move forward

So what can be done?

• Lobby state/local governments - for regulation and community funding

• Networks with community orgs to support legal/human rights issues

• Traditional methods of organising can't and don't work alone

• Need new models to organise more broadly at household and community levels for new forms of social solidarity

• Trade unionism growing in countries with 'community unionism' - South Africa, Brazil, Korea


These are the speaker's notes for the address by Justine Evesson, Senior Researcher, acirrt, University of Sydney, at the Evatt Foundation's Sunset Seminar on "The Promises and Pitfalls of Howard's New Industrial Relations Regime for Working Women", held on 5 July 2005 at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts.


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