The gap between men’s and women’s pay will widen following last week’s decision to freeze the minimum wage, say unions.

Women are over-represented among the low-paid, and the adverse decision by the Australian Fair Pay Commission will worsen inequality, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

Ms Burrow said a worrying new report by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency confirmed that females lagged behind males at all levels of employment, including executives.

The report, based on the 2008 census of women in leadership, revealed that women executive managers earned nearly 30% less than men working in the same positions, and the gap was wider for support roles.

Ms Burrow said there was an entrenched pay gap between men and women in the Australian workforce.

This is set to get worse with the appalling the decision to freeze the wages of low paid workers, she said.

“Women will be the biggest losers from last week’s unjust decision to freeze the Federal Minimum Wage at $543.78,” Ms Burrow said.

“This is because women are over-represented among those dependent on national wage case decisions.

“Almost one-third of women earn less than the Federal Minimum Wage, and more than a quarter of women working in the private sector have their pay determined by awards, which are dependent on AFPC decisions. That compares to 16% of men.

“Women are also over-represented among part-time workers in jobs such as child care, cleaning, and hospitality.

“It is unlawful to pay women less than their male counterparts for work of equal value, yet the average weekly full-time earnings of women are 20% less than men.

“This has been exacerbated by the WorkChoices-era Fair Pay Commission, which has been responsible for real wage cuts since 2006 for about 10% of the workforce.”

Unions have recently endorsed a new campaign to reduce the gender pay gap, calling for workplaces to be required to annually report basic equal pay data.

Unions want to see the establishment of a Pay Equity Division and Pay Equity Commissioner within Fair Work Australia, and increased regulatory measures to prevent unequal remuneration, including the issue of performance improvement notices and mandatory action plans.