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Australian tax data is absolute proof of the gender pay gap across the entire economy

·4-min read

The Australian Taxation Office’s annual release of tax statistics cuts right through the talk to let you know how things really are – and above all the numbers show absolute proof of the gender pay gap.

The tax stats provide a mass of data related to every question on your tax returns. As such they reveal quite a lot of information.

They show, for example, that 60 millionaires in 2019-20 paid no tax, and that 28 of them spent an average of $224,876 “managing their tax affairs” including paying interest charged by the ATO.

Related: Australia’s economy is set to grow slower than it ever has outside of recession. This is bad news for our standard of living | Greg Jericho

They show that while record low interest rates meant only 10.7% of the 14.9 million individuals who submitted a tax return negative geared, as ever the more you earn the more likely you are to negative gear:

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And what the tax stats very much reveal is that the gender pay gap remains absolute across the entire community.

Whenever talk comes to the issue, a lot of the rebuttals are around the legality of pay – that you cannot pay women less than a man for doing the same job for the same hours.

Related: ‘I don’t mind camping, but I won’t sleep in the car’: what happens when superannuation keeps failing women

That is true, but it ignores the reality of work life wherein it is not about just doing the same job and hours – it is who gets more hours, who gets the better paying jobs, who is more likely to work part-time to care for family, and who is more likely to be assumed to be the one to go part-time and thus denied a promotion.

The tax stats cut through because they show how much people actually earn in the year.

The data reveals that across the economy women, regardless of hourly pay rates, are much less likely to bring home more than men across the entire year.

Women made up 49% of all taxpayers in 2019-20 but only a third of those in the $90,001 to $180,000 tax bracket and a mere 27% of those in the top tax bracket:

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A look at income deciles (ie from the bottom 10% though to the top 10%) also shows the gender pay imbalance:

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Every below-median income decile has more women than men, and every above median decile fewer women than men.

But maybe that is just the total/average picture. Let us look at every single occupation in which there are more than 30 men and women working (there are a few jobs where there are no men or women).

That leaves us with 1,011 occupations.

Because the data can get a bit messy across large income ranges, let’s first look at 972 occupations where the median salary or wage is less than $150,000 for either men or women:

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In just 87 of these occupations do women have a higher median.

Some of the biggest salary disparities are in sport. The median salary for male footballers is about 2.5 times that of women and for cricket it is 2.1 times.

That is to be expected, but even for occupations like dermatology men’s median salary is 1.8 times that of women’s. My favourite is that even in “occupations not listed” men’s median salary is 1.5 times that of women’s.

When we look at high paying occupations that situation is much worse. Only members of parliament see women with a higher median salary:

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You might think caring about rich doctors and judges is a bit pointless, but it is worth highlighting because the data shows without any doubt that higher paid occupations are less likely to have women working in them:

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The higher paying the job the less likely women are working that job until you get to the very high paying medical and legal professions (women make up 56% of all paediatricians and 45% of psychiatrists).

And to put it another way, jobs with mostly women working in them are more likely to be lower paid:

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Occupations in which women account for fewer than 10% of workers have a median salary of nearly $67,000, while those occupation in which women account from more than 90% of workers the median is just over $41,000.

Consider my own profession of journalism.

Of all journalists, 57% are women – a sizeable majority. And yet they make up just 46% of those in the $90,001 to $180,000 tax bracket and 36% of those in the top bracket:

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Yes, the number of those earnings over $180,000 is small, but that 430 of them are men compared to 247 women says a fair bit about who gets the top editorial jobs and high-profile spots on television:

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But the reality is we would see a similar story in just about every occupation.

Across the economy, traditional women’s work is valued less than men’s but across all occupations women mostly earn less than men.