Sharing and valuing care

Outdated stereotypes about the roles of men and women mean women do almost twice as much unpaid care work as men. [1] This includes looking after children, elderly parents and people with disability or long-term health conditions. This care work is so important to our society but is often undervalued and unrecognised. Women shoulder the financial burden, as well as associated health and wellbeing impacts.

Key statistics 1

  • Victoria’s gender pay gap is currently 13.4%. [2] In Australia, the gender pay gap increases as workers age. It is 30.2% for employees aged 45 to 54 and reaches 31.9% for employees aged 55 to 64. [3]
  • The ethnic gender pay gap is double the national average gender pay gap, estimated to be around 33 to 36%. [4]
  • Women with disability are less likely to be in paid employment. They also receive lower incomes than men with disability and women without disability. [5]

In heterosexual couples where both partners have similar hours of paid work, there is still a large gap in unpaid work hours. This affects financial security and independence. In the long term it leads to lower lifetime earnings and superannuation for women. While more men now stay at home as primary carers for their children than ever before, women are still mostly responsible for caring for children.

Key statistics 2

  • Women can experience motherhood penalty, with earnings falling by an average of 55% in the first 5 years of parenthood. [6] Motherhood penalty occurs mostly because women take time out of the workforce or work fewer hours after having a child.
  • More than a third of single mothers (37%) are living below the poverty line compared to 18% of single fathers. [7]
  • In 2018–19, 48% of Australian women mentioned ‘caring for children’ as the main reason they couldn’t start a new job or work more hours, compared to only 3% of men. [8]
  • Almost 8 in 10 parental leave takers in the Victorian public sector are women. On average, women’s parental leave lasts 8 times longer than men’s. [9]

We will work to remove barriers which prevent women taking part in the workforce, including rebalancing the load of unpaid work and care. We will also promote and work to increase the value placed on care in our society.

We will invest $14 billion in the Best Start, Best Life reforms over the next decade to save families money and support women to return to work. The childcare system has been set up to work against working families – particularly mothers – who face barriers by the lack of affordable care options.

We will advocate to the Australian Government on the adequacy of carer payments and payment of superannuation on government-funded parental leave. We are addressing this in our public sector workforce through extending superannuation payments on paid parental leave to 52 weeks for teachers in Victorian public schools – our largest public sector workforce – and introducing a target to double the number of men taking available paid parental leave in the Victorian public sector to work towards rebalancing the gendered uptake of caring entitlements.

Through the Outside School Hours Care Establishment Grants Initiative, we are supporting more than 400 schools in Victoria to provide outside hours school care services. The aim is to reduce barriers to women taking part in the workforce, so parents and carers can get back into the workforce, study or training. This program provides schools with funding to establish new services or expand existing ones to help them meet demand for their outside school hours care service. Special schools and those in remote locations will receive more funding if needed.

Case study: Best Start, Best Life

Our Best Start, Best Life reforms will invest $14 billion over the next decade to make kindergarten programs more accessible and affordable.

Evidence shows that 2 years of quality early childhood education has more impact than one year and can lift children’s learning outcomes. The skills developed in early childhood also contribute to broader and longer-term outcomes. These include better employment prospects, health and wellbeing, and more positive social outcomes.

Families in Victoria will have access to 15 hours of funded, teacher-led 3-year-old kindergarten by 2029, and by 2032, 4-year-old kindergarten will transition to ‘Pre-prep’ – increasing to a universal, 30-hour-a-week program of play-based learning. We are also establishing 50 Victorian Government-owned, affordable early learning centres in areas that need more childcare.

As well as improving children’s lives, quality teacher-led kindergarten programs will also improve parent and carer participation in the workforce. This will have significant socio-economic benefits for families and children. It will also improve women’s economic independence and security, because the primary carer role is still carried out more by women than men in Victoria.

Independent analysis from Deloitte shows Best Start, Best Life will support between 9,100 and 14,200 extra primary carers to take part in the labour force by 2032–33, and increase total hours worked by primary carers by between 8 and 11%. [10]

With 94% of primary carers being women, this increase will overwhelmingly benefit female-dominated sectors that are all currently facing skills shortages like education, health services and hospitality.


[1] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Removing the motherhood penalty, WGEA, 2018, accessed 11 November 2021.

[2] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Gender pay gap data, WGEA, accessed 3 May 2023.

[3] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Wages and ages: mapping the gender pay gap by age, WGEA, accessed 27 February 2023.

[4] R Whitson, ‘Culturally diverse women paid less, stuck in middle management longer and more likely to be harassed’, ABC, 12 March 2022, accessed 06 February 2023.

[5] Victorian Government, Safe and strong: a Victorian gender equality strategy, 2016, accessed 06 February 2023.

[6] Australian Treasury, Children and the gender earnings gaps, Australian Treasury, 2022, accessed 06 February 2023.

[7] Council of Single Mothers and their Children, ‘The feminisation of poverty: why we need to talk about single mothers’, CSMC, 2022, accessed 06 February 2023.

[8] Australia Bureau of Statistics, Barriers and incentives to labour force participation, ABS, 2022, accessed 12 April 2023.

[9] Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector, Baseline report – 2021 workplace gender audit data analysis, 2022, accessed 12 April 2023.

[10] Premier of Victoria, ‘Best start, best life means billions for Victoria’s economy’, media release, 1 September 2022.

Illustration of diverse people