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This one's for the workers who don't get paid enough.

Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis

Yesterday was an important day for women.

An important day for our community.

An important day for equality.

In Australia, we know that women are earning less than men. In fact, they are earning one fifth less than men, which is about a $1 million penalty over a lifetime simply for being born a woman.

This just isn’t good enough.

Some of this pay disparity is because a higher proportion of women work in caring jobs – and historically, doing this work has paid less. It has been undervalued.

When you think about the people who work hard to support our community – working with people with disabilities, counselling families in crisis, running homeless shelters, supporting survivors of domestic violence – it seems ridiculous that these people are paid comparatively so little.

Anyone who has needed our community sector workers (or whose friends or family have needed support) will tell you that you can’t put a price on the work that the community sector does.

It is hard work. It is emotional work. And it is the kind of work that changes people’s lives, supports them through crisis and sorrow, and lifts them up to live happier and healthier lives.

They are the people who make a difference in our community.

And they have been forgotten. That is, until yesterday.

We cannot do a lot to make the work that these people do any easier. But we can make sure that we value it properly.

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Yesterday, the PM announced that the Australian Government would join with the Australian Services Union to submit to Fair Work Australia that these workers should get a pay increase above the modern award rate. The Government is committing $2 billion to fund our share of the increase. Community services are also funded by the States, so we will be looking to them to pay their share too.

This will lead to more pay for those who do some of the most challenging work in our community.

What this means for individual workers depends on their current state-based pay classification and the terms of the order the order that will be made by Fair Work Australia (noting that we and the workers will be asking for the same magnitude of pay increase).  The transition to the new pay structure will take place over the next few years, but the kind of increases that will we be seeing are:

A disability support worker employed at classification level 2, could receive in the order of an additional $7,000 in their annual salary.

A youth outreach worker employed at classification level 4, could receive in the order of an additional $12,000 in their annual salary.

A drug and alcohol counsellor employed at classification level 6, could receive in the order of an additional $18,000 in their annual salary.

I think you’ll agree: $2 billion is not too much to pay to properly compensate these workers for the lives that they change every day.

Kate Ellis is the Federal Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare; Minister for the Status of Women.

What has been your experience with the care industry. Do you or somebody you know work in it?

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