The Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW (WEL) roundly condemns the Federal Government’s submission to the Fair Work Commission as a retrograde step that is completely out of touch.


The government’s submission, and subsequent comments by the Minister for Women, Michaela Cash, urged caution on increasing the minimum wage because some low-waged workers live in high income households. 

Low-waged workers are predominantly young people and women and the submission is concerning in the context of the recent penalty rates decision, which also falls heavily and disproportionately on low paid workers.

“For years we have been telling young women that ‘a man is not a financial plan’ but it appears from this submission that the Federal Government believes the opposite,” said WEL NSW Convenor, Philippa Hall.

“All workers should be paid properly for the work they do – statistically many of the lowest paid workers in this country are women and we should be asking why that continues to be the case in this day and age.

“We have had a long struggle for women to be paid according to the value of their work and not according to the contribution their earnings make to a household. 

“Consideration of the minimum wage rate should legitimately take account of the amount workers need to live on - but that is not supposed to be considered on a household basis. Such suggestions are a backwards step in the quest to bring economic empowerment to women.”

Women are already paid on average 17.5% less in Australia than their male counterparts for doing the same work. 

WEL is also concerned about the struggle many young people encounter in trying to find employment - let alone employment with some security and decent wages and conditions. This means many people who are keen to work already find it very hard to make ends meet.


  • The government’s submission states: “low-paid workers are more likely to be young, female, single or without children. They also have varied living standards and levels of household income with nearly half of low-paid workers in the top 50 per cent of household income. Given this, minimum wage increases are not well-targeted at lifting the relative incomes of low-paid households, as wage increases will also be directed to well-off households.”
  • The Productivity Commission’s 2015 industrial relations review, referenced by the government in its submission, says the lowest income quintile in Australia contains fewer minimum wage workers than the other quintiles. However, those in the poorest quintile are also more likely to be unemployed or pensioners – so proportionately fewer people work in that quintile. The same Productivity Commission report also noted that almost half of those who do work in the poorest quintile of the population are on the minimum wage.
  • Wages growth in Australia is at historic low levels.
  • A recent report from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, based on data from the ABS, found that almost a third of Australian young people are either unemployed or underemployed.

Media inquiries:

For interviews with WEL spokespeople, please contact Liz Stephens at [email protected] or on 0407 224469.