Gender pay gap narrows in June quarter

Women's median hourly pay has the biggest annual percentage increase since the June 2007 quarter.

The gap between what men get paid and what women get paid per hour has narrowed in the June quarter, with the 9.4% difference now the smallest it has been in five years, Statistics New Zealand said.

Women's median hourly pay rose 4.6% in the past year to $23.02, the biggest annual percentage increase since the June 2007 quarter and ahead of men's 1.6% annual gain to $25.41 per hour.

On a weekly basis, women's earnings rose 3.8% to $830, while men's rose 3.2% to $1108. Maori men's wages rose 8.6% to $1000 and Maori women were still paid the least, with a 6.6% gain to $767 weekly although Statistics NZ said this was not statistically significant.

"Increases in median hourly earnings for women in four of eight occupation groups played a major part in the 4.6% rise in women's hourly earnings," labour and income statistics manager Sean Broughton said. Those groups were community and personal services, where hourly earnings rose 4.4%; clerical and administration, where they gained 4.1%; sales, up 2.9%; and machinery operator and drivers where earnings advanced 11.1%.

While community and personal services include occupations, such as personal and child carers, health workers, education aides, and hospitality workers, the recent government deal to lift pay for aged-care workers came into effect on July 1 so is not represented in these figures, Statistics NZ said.

Women's Minister Paula Bennett says the narrowing of the gender pay gap is "fantastic."

"Don't get me wrong, I still believe having any gender pay gap is completely unacceptable but it's moving in the right direction," Mrs Bennett said. "I want New Zealand to be the first country to eliminate the gender pay gap and I believe we can."

In July, Bennett launched the first step of her plan to close the gap, including seven recommendations for employers to improve equality in their organisations, with the ministry planning to release guidance to assist employers on how to measure their gender pay gap.

At that time, the national gender pay gap was 12%, the same as in 2006. About 20% of that can be explained by differences in education, occupation or industries or women being more likely to work part-time.

However, the majority of the gap is down to what researchers call unexplained factors, such as conscious and unconscious bias, and the gap is wider and more attributable to unexplained factors at the top end of wage distribution – the "glass ceiling" effect.

"This is something we've worked hard on in the public sector. We recently reached our goal of 45 per cent of women on state sector boards and 46 per cent of women in senior leadership roles in the public service," Bennett said. "I hope this is an issue we keep talking about and taking action on so that the gap continues to trend in this direction because in 2017 there is absolutely no excuse for someone to be paid less just because of their gender."


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