On Equal Pay Day, Union warns women could earn less but pay more

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Posted 5 September 2014 by Terri Macdonald (NTEU National Office)

Union warns women earn less but could still pay more

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) today warned that women graduates could end up earning less but still pay off increased student debts, should the Government’s plans to deregulate fees and introduce interest rates on HECS/HELP loans succeed. 

Today is Equal Pay Day, which marks the period of extra days in the current year that women need to work to achieve the same wages that men earned during the previous financial year”, said National President Jeannie Rea.

“Depressingly, this year the gap between men and women's wages is 18.2%, nearly 1% worse than 2013, and the worst in 20 years. Men on average will earn $14,500 more than a woman, who will have to work an extra 66 days to earn it.

“If the pay gap remains at this rate, or if it continues to increase, then women graduates are likely to suffer greater financial strain, should the Government’s higher education changes be successful,” Rea said.

Over 39% of 25-29 year old women hold bachelor degrees, compared to just under 32% of men. However, even without career breaks, women graduates are likely to take longer than their male counterparts to pay off their student debt simply due to the fact that the majority of women will earn less.

“Increasing the levels of debt and adding a real rate of interest, while at the same time failing to address the increased pay equity gap, is setting women up for a lifetime of debt,” Rea continued.

“When career breaks are factored in, the pay gap blows out significantly peaking at over 24% for women aged between 40 and 44 years.  What this means is that many women could still be paying off their own student debts when their children are starting their own post-school studies, adding further pressure to their financial situation.”

“The NTEU calls on the Senate to reject the Abbott Government’s unfair and inequitable changes to higher education, given that these will increase the financial burden on women, who may be shouldering this debt for decades to come,” Rea concluded.  

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