International mechanisms to revalue women's work: research

The report reviews different approaches to redress the undervaluation of women’s work and assesses their applicability to the Scottish employment context. The report finds that undervaluation of women’s work is a driver of the gender pay gap and makes recommendations to alleviate this disparity.

Appendix 1 – Case Study 1 – Australia: Equal Remuneration Orders

In Australia, the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) was 11.8% in 2018[77]; collective bargaining covered 61% of employees in 2018[78]. This case study examines how the Australian Services Union (ASU) made the first application for an Equal Remuneration Order for workers in the social and community services in 2010. This application was supported by the Australian Government, trade unions and civil society organisation but opposed by employers. In 2012, after an initial rejection of part of the claim, Fair Wage Australia (FWA), the industrial relations tribunal, agreed to the proposed wage increases.


The National Pay Equity Coalition[79], has played a leading role in redefining approaches to pay equity at state level by promoting the concept of undervaluation, which does not require evidence of, or proof of discrimination against women or male-female comparability. In 2009, the Fair Work Act was passed, which attempted to modernise industrial relations. The same year, the Australian Government and the ASU drew up a ‘Heads of Agreement’ that set out the commitment of the Federal Government to support the development of an ‘appropriate’ federal equal remuneration principle and to provide research and evidence to Fair Wage Australia (FWA).

On 11 March 2010, five trade unions, led by the ASU, made a first application for an Equal Remuneration Order under Fair Wage Australia (FWA), for social and community services (SACS) workers. They asked the FWA to find that a) the SACS industry is female dominated, 2) the work is undervalued, 3) that there is a causal relationship between the SACS sector being female dominated and the work being undervalued.[80] This application was supported by the Australian Government, trade unions and civil society organisations but opposed by employers, for example, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This case used the gender-based undervaluation principle, which was developed by State industrial tribunals in the 1990s.


In 2012, two years after the initial submission, the FWA found in favour of the proposed wage increases. In response to this second submission, the FWA made an order providing for increases of between 19% and 41% to the SCHCDS Award weekly rates from level two. These were to be phased in over an eight-year period[81]. Although this was a major win for workers in the social and community services sector, it did not result in improved pay equity in other sectors at either state or federal levels. There are several reasons for this. One technical reason was the limited use of the tribunal system in wage setting, which limited the power of FWA to achieve gender pay equity for the whole workforce. However, there have been criticisms of FWA in that it views unequal pay as a technical problem to be solved rather than related to inequality within society[82]. The FWA did not draw on the experience of several awards made at state level, in Queensland and New South Wales, in the previous decade, which could have added weight to its decisions. In the wider context, the lack of any federal equal remuneration principles combined with the growing decentralisation of collective bargaining and resulting fragmentation of pay agreements has led to a failure to improve pay equity[83].


The Australian experience suggests a number of lessons for the SG. Remuneration principles in occupations with predominantly female workforces have to be defined in order to achieve pay equity. Trade unions play a key role in bringing cases to court. Decentralised collective bargaining systems create barriers to achieving pay equity because they fragment the pay bargaining process. Most importantly, governments have a key role to play in establishing equal pay principles. Without government commitment and action, long-term changes in pay equity will not be achieved.



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