New Zealand's gender pay gap estimated at nearly 18 percent - consultants

New Zealand's gender pay gap is estimated at 17.7 percent, nearly double what Stats NZ measures it to be, consultants StrategicPay say.

The last report by Stats NZ in June 2019 said the gender pay gap was 9.3 percent, remaining unchanged since 2017. This number is found by calculating the difference between the median hourly earnings - or base pay - of 25,000 male and female workers.

But StrategicPay's report also used KiwiSaver, bonuses and car payments to calculate the pay gap, and it found the difference is much larger.

"From a sample of over 187,000 employees from over 950 organisations in New Zealand we have found that the overall gender pay gap is 17.7 percent in New Zealand," StrategicPay CEO John McGill says in the report.

"Using base pay may be a useful starting point, and it sheds some light on the gender pay gap, but our analysis allows us to turn a brighter spotlight on the issue."

StrategicPay's analysis of the data found men receive more incentives, higher KiwiSaver contributions and higher-value vehicles.

"An analysis that looks only at base pay masks the fact that males on balance receive more fixed and variable pay (e.g. bonuses) than their female counterparts. This may have in part to do with the types of roles attracting the benefits, for example those roles requiring vehicles, such as regulatory or other field roles in local/regional government," McGill says.

"However, it is less clear why females at all levels receive less in KiwiSaver than their male counterparts. This could be because KiwiSaver is a payment based on a percentage of base pay, or it could be because men have negotiated higher contributions from their employers."

He says women are more represented in job roles that depend on social interactions, and are also more likely to feel the brunt of financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We could still see large numbers of people across most industries and particularly in the private sector, not only losing their jobs, but also potentially being hired back at lower rates when the world starts moving again."

McGill says pay equity is an important issue that has been a focus for many businesses and governments over the past few years.

"As we move into a world changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand that in times of crisis, business focus may change and addressing pay inequity may move down the priority list. But we believe this is still an important issue to be addressed, in some ways now more than ever."

The report also says representation of women on boards has increased steadily since 2011. Engineering boards had the highest representation of women, at 53 percent, whereas fisheries had the lowest, with 13 percent.