Dr Leonora Risse
RMIT University, Melbourne
The undervaluation of “women’s work” is commonly considered a factor contributing to gender gaps in economic outcomes. This paper investigates whether, and to what extent, roles that societal norms assign to women are systematically undervalued in the economy. Using 2021 data for Australia, this analysis detects that, compared to gender-balanced sectors, male-concentrated occupations and industries experience an hourly wage premium of 6.4 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively, while female-concentrated occupations experience a 3.7 per cent lower wage. The paper’s scope extends to the sphere of unpaid work, where much of the work conventionally assigned to women is omitted from official measurements of the economy. Using Australian time use data, this analysis estimates that 55 per cent of women’s labour contribution to the economy is in the form of unpaid work, compared to 31 per cent of men’s. Adding unpaid work to paid work expands women’s share of total labour effort in the economy from 37 to 47 per cent. Adjusting for the under-valuation of female-concentrated sectors sees women’s labour contribution rise further to close to 50 per cent. These findings are informative across a range of practical applications, including equitable wage settings, the division of household assets, and measurements of the economy’s aggregate productivity.
Leonora Risse is an economist who specialises in gender equality. She is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at RMIT University, a Research Fellow with the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, an Associate Investigator with the Life Course Centre, and an Expert Panel Member on gender pay equity with the Fair Work Commission. Previously she has held roles with the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University and the Australian Government Productivity Commission. Dr Risse is a co-founder and former National Chair of the Women in Economics Network in Australia. In 2024 she will commence as an Associate Professor in Gender Economics at the University of Canberra. Dr Risse engages regularly with governments and organisations on gender equality issues, including evidence-based policies to close gender gaps and how to apply a ‘gender lens’ to economic analysis and policy design. Her research and policy experience extends to labour economics, disadvantage and wellbeing. Dr Risse holds a PhD in Economics, Bachelor of Economics with Honours, and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Queensland.
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