Sexual harassment in the workplace has "increased significantly" in Australia over the past six years, the nation's sex discrimination commissioner says.
A report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission today reveals almost two in five women and just over one in four men in Australia have been sexually harassed at work in the past five years.
“These figures are unacceptable and have increased significantly since the last survey in 2012, which found one in five (21%) people told us they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the previous five-year period," sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins said.
“Worryingly, people aged 18 to 29 were more likely than those in any other age groups to tell us they have experienced workplace sexual harassment in the past five years (45%)."
For the first time, the survey asked industry-specific questions and found experiences of workplace sexual harassment were notably high in the information, media and telecommunications industry (81% of employees in this industry in the last five years); the arts and recreation services (49%); electricity, gas, water and waste services (47%); and the retail trade sector (42%).
“We know from our research that many people are afraid to report their experiences of unwelcome sexual conduct out of fear that they won’t be believed, that it’s not worth it, that they’ll be ostracised and that it could damage their career," Jenkins said.
“It’s also worrying that almost half of those who did make a formal report said that nothing changed at their organisation, as a result of the complaint."
The survey results will inform the commission's national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, which will begin public consultations later this month.
Minister for women Kelly O'Dwyer today vowed to provided additional funding to increase the survey from 2,000 to 10,000 participants as she is "deeply concerned" about the reported increase in harassment.
"These results show that we need to keep working to change the culture of Australian workplaces," O'Dwyer said in a statement.