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On 8 March, International Women’s Day 2014, men and women around the world will celebrate “Inspiring Change” - the social, political and economic progress that women have made while identifying how much work there is still to do. Australia is second only to Norway on the United Nation’s (UN) Human Development Index (2013) (HDI), ranking exceptionally well across health (0.978), education (0.981), and income (0.862) and yet this Very High Human Development (VHHD) country drops to 17th on the Gender Inequality Index (GII) (Human Development Report 2013).

Australia ranks lower than Spain (HDI: 23, GII: 15), Italy (HDI: 25, GII: 11) and Portugal (HDI: 43, GII: 16) all countries which rank significantly lower than Australia on the HDI. Maternal mortality (7 in every 100,000), adolescent fertility (12.5 births per 1,000 women ages 15–19 2012), percentage of female seats in parliament (29.2% 2012), percentage of population with at least secondary education (92.2% aged 25 and older, equal with men 2006-2010), and labour force participation rate (58.8% female compared with 72.3 aged 15+ 2011) are all assessed to establish a county’s GII. 

Compared with the other 47 VHHD countries, Australia ranks below average for maternal mortality (15) and adolescent fertility (18.7). Australia ranks in the top third for percentage of female seats in parliament (average 25%) and percentage of population with at least secondary education (female average 84.7, male average 87.1). Australia has a very high labour force participation rate, ranking 8th compared with other VHHD countries (female average 52.7% mane average 68.7%). 

Australia drops 15 places when it comes to gender because it does not consistently rate highly enough in any of the categories. 

Another concerning factor brought to light is the gap between women’s labour force participation rate with men’s in Australia, it is 13.5% lower. This report does not go into detail on the gender pay gap in Australia, however the Australian Government Workplace Gender Equality Agency reported the gender pay gap stood at 17.6% as of November 2012.

Gender issues are becoming better understood and acknowledged across Australia, including: violence against women (the 2012 theme for International Women’s Day); the pay gap (barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce); and family and caring responsibilities for both women and men (look at the introduction of paternity leave). 

Despite this, Australia has a long way to go before it can be labelled as a gender-equal society. Change is happening and should be supported, for so many reasons, primarily thought because it is the right thing to do, but also because societies (especially businesses) perform better when there is gender equality. 

International Women’s Day focuses on women’s achievements, promotes the untapped potential of and opportunities for women, and advocates for an end to violence against women. The UNAA YP involves young professionals throughout Australia in the work of the United Nations and raises funds for its sister organisations and their vital initiatives. 

The UNAA Young Professionals will be holding an event in celebration of IWD. For more information visit the Facebook page