Childcare limits stop professional women returning to work: report

| March 4, 2020

Reducing workforce disincentives facing professional, university educated women could add up to 12 million working hours to the economy annually, the equivalent of an extra 6,500 highly talented women in the Australian workforce.

A report prepared by the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), to coincide with International Women’s Day, identifies eight imperatives for improving gender equity in senior industry levels.

It found that reforming federal government childcare policy would encourage many female executives to stay in the workforce full-time after starting a family – boosting gender equity and the GDP.

The reform is crucial, says AIPM CEO Elizabeth Foley, because six in 10 Australians still work in industries that are dominated by one gender.

“AIPM’s membership comes predominantly from project-based organisations in male dominated industry groups, such as mining, construction, manufacturing, information, media and technical services,” she says.

“Women represent just 22 per cent of our members. This reflects the male dominance of project management-based industries, and doesn’t reflect the available female skills and talent out there.”

Ms Foley said that childcare reforms introduced in 2018 by the federal government presented significant disincentives to women from professional backgrounds returning to work after having children.

“Under the current settings, if combined family income exceeds the set upper limits by just one dollar, the amount provided by the Child Care Subsidy Scheme plunges by at least half and in some circumstances by more than half,” she says.

“These built-in financial cliffs really exacerbate the work disincentives facing younger working mothers, dissuading them from working more than three days a week.

“And that’s a real pity, because it’s only by working full time that they can properly achieve career mastery.”

The AIPM’s report identifies changes required to bring gender equity to the workplace.

As well as childcare reform, they include building a work culture that values women, closing gender-defined gaps in pay and superannuation, and breaking down the gender dominance (both male and female) that characterise many industries.

“In Australia, only 25 per cent of the ASX-listed executive leadership team are women,” said Ms Foley.

“At that level, the gender pay gap averages 21.3% – meaning women are being paid almost $26,000 less each year than men filling identical roles and carrying identical responsibilities.”

The full report is available here: