Everyone is familiar with the ‘glass ceiling’, and the disparity between the number of men and women in the top income bracket. This situation is said to exist in some countries to a far greater extent than others. So what is the scenario in Australia?
The term ‘high income’ in the 2006 census referred to workers earning $83,000-plus per annum, while in 2011 it was $104,000-plus per annum – an annual compound growth rate of 4.6 per cent (just slightly more than inflation).
In 2011 one worker in ten (1.02 million people) earnt a six-figure income, with men making up 77 per cent of these high-paying jobs. While this seems a big disparity, the gap is narrowing more every year; between 2006 and 2011 the number of female workers in the top-income bracket increased 19 per cent, against an increase for men of just 14 per cent.
The interesting (or maybe expected) thing is that while women are making fast income inroads, there still exists a marked difference between the type of jobs men and women are doing in this top income bracket.
Women are moving into high-paying office/court/hospital work, usually associated with workplaces located in the inner city. Men are starting to work site-based jobs located beyond the CBDs, often in regional and remote locations. For instance, the number of male fitters in the highest-income bracket increased from 8,600 in 2006 to 13,900 in 2011, while male miners jumped from 10,700 in 2006 to 15,300 in 2011. Top-income-earning female miners also increased over this period, but only from 280 to 845. Conversely, the most growth for women applied to solicitor roles, which increased from 6,200 in 2006 to 8,400 in 2011, and human resources managers, rising from 5,700 in 2006 to 7,600 in 2011.
So what does all this mean?
While it may seem a crass generalisation, female workers in the top income bracket are most likely to be office based, predominantly in the inner city if not the CBD. High-income working women must therefore live closer to the CBD. The recent rise of the ‘1 bedder’ apartment is no accident; more high-earning women and their partners are living closer to the CBD or key employment hubs and are choosing to live in apartments. These often have European appliances, stone benchtops and new bathrooms.
Conversely, male workers in high-income jobs are more likely to work in roles focused on practical IT and construction work, as well as on work requiring outdoor skills and often performed in remote (or at least non-CBD) locations such as city-fringe building activity. This type of work includes jobs taken up by men in construction, computing and mining.
Women and men now have the same opportunities in CBD office based jobs, however, these regional areas where women are not as competitive with men, skew the top income ratio. The traditional ability of males to move away in isolation has seen them take the majority of these opportunities. To reach equality nationwide women will have to be prepared to pursue work opportunities in city-edge, if not remote, locations – a potential major shift in Australia’s labour market into the future.
Therefore, anyone considering investing in regional areas should ensure quality is at the forefront of their investment decision.