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For Australia to prosper we must both create jobs and do better to make the benefit of working as attractive to women as it is for men.

Workforce participation in Australia is less than 60% for women, compared to more than 70% for men, despite the fact that women graduate and progress into tertiary education in larger numbers.

Workplace participation and caring responsibilities

Increasing women’s workforce participation unlocks Australia’s potential and contributes to economic growth. However, women remain a significantly untapped resource for workforce participation and productivity. 

  • In Australia, there is a persistent gap in labour force participation rates between women (67.4%) and men (78.5%).  
  • There has been little progress in the increase of women’s full-time participation over recent decades, with Australia lagging 10% behind the OECD average.
  • Women constitute 68.2% of all part-time employees and are more likely to work in casual jobs.

The underutilisation and underrepresentation of women in full-time work significantly limits their opportunities to progress in the workplace. While several factors influence women’s engagement with the labour market, a key barrier is their tendency to take on caring responsibilities.  


  • Prior to COVID-19, women in Australia on average spent twice as much time as men in unpaid work and domestic labour.
  • The gender divide in workforce participation and employment significantly widens for parents. For those with a child aged 0-5 years, only 64% of women participated in the labour force, compared with 95% of men.  

If Australia’s female workforce participation rate increased by 6%, our GDP would be $25 billion higher, according to analysis by the Grattan Institute.

An opportunity of this scale needs to be treated just like any other national priority, such as innovation, balancing the budget or tax reform. CEW advocates for equal pay; affordable, accessible and flexible childcare and treating childcare costs like any other work related expense.


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