Government criticised over lack of action to close Aotearoa's 9.2 pct gender pay gap

A group advocating for pay equity says the country's continued gender pay gap is "unacceptable", unfair and disappointing. 

It's calling for the Government to take immediate action to fix it after the latest figures showed the gender pay gap had increased slightly. 

Figures from Statistics New Zealand, which were released on Wednesday, showed it has worsened hitting 9.2 percent, up ever so slightly from 9.1 percent.  

The figures showed median hourly earnings from wages and salaries rose 6.8 percent - up $1.90 to $29.66 per hour - in the year to the June 2022 quarter. That's the largest annual percentage change since records began in 1998.

But women are still earning significantly less than men. Median hourly earnings for women jumped 6.2 percent to $28, compared to earnings for men rising 6.4 percent to $30.85, the data showed. 

While women saw a larger jump in median weekly earnings - up 9.9 percent or $95 to $1055 - as more women join the full-time workforce and fewer are in part-time employment, they're still earning less than men. Median weekly earnings for men increased by $73 (up 5.9 percent) over the year to $1320.

Mind the Gap co-leader Dellwyn Stuart told Newshub it's unfair women are still being paid less for the same work. 

"It's very disappointing and we're a bit fed up," Dellwyn said. "New Zealanders, in general, are fed up with this unfairness."

She said there is strong support from Kiwis to fix this issue and it's frustrating that companies and the Government aren't taking stronger action. 

"It's 50 years in October since our Equal Pay Act came into being, and we still have gender pay gaps of this magnitude, I mean that is just so unacceptable and at a time when the cost of living is rising, you know this really impacts lives."

Dellwyn said during the cost of living crisis the gender pay gap is having an even larger impact than normal. And it's not just women who are disadvantaged. 

While Statistics New Zealand didn't report on the ethnicity pay gap this year, figures from 2021 showed for every $1 a white man earns, white women earn $0.89, Māori and Asian men earn $0.86, Asian women earn $0.83, Pasifika and Māori men earn $0.81 while Pasifika women earn just $0.75. 

Dellwyn said it's not good enough and there's no reason women should be paid less simply because they are women. 

"Why should your gender mean your labour is worth 10 percent less than men? Why should your gender and your ethnicity mean that it's worth 25 percent less? It's just nonsense."

She's calling for the Government to make gender and ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory to help close the gap. 

"Overseas we've seen when they have to measure and report the pay gap over 90 percent of organizations in the UK found pay gaps they didn't know they had. 

"Businesses don't see that they have pay gaps, it's just one of those things that is embedded in the system, but once they see them then they're able to do something to fix them. In the UK, that means a 20 percent drop in the pay gap in the first year and in New Zealand, that would translate to about $20 a week in wallets here and, at the moment, that would make a really big difference.

"I think there's a real complacency in New Zealand around gender issues. We appear at the top of a number of different international indices, and we think actually we're doing okay here, but you say it to a Pasifika woman who's walking around the supermarket trying to provide for her family. We are not doing okay here."

Minister for Women Jan Tinetti told Newshub the Government is committed to reducing the gender pay gap.

"The gender pay gap places women at an economic disadvantage and contributes to reduced lifetime earnings for women."

"No gender pay gap is acceptable. That is why it is important to understand the drivers of the gender pay gap – particularly for different groups of women. While the gender pay gap is only 6.3 percent for Pākehā women, wāhine Māori and Pacific women continue to experience much larger gender-ethnic pay gaps," Tinetti said. 

She said the Government is working on measures to reduce the pay gap such as mandatory reporting. 

"Pay transparency is an important step towards achieving greater pay equity and closing pay gaps.

"Pay transparency forms part of a wider range of measures that the Government is already working on to close the gender pay gap, and increase pay equity in Aotearoa New Zealand.

"The Government is scoping a work programme for pay transparency and has agreed to investigate whether a full pay transparency regime in New Zealand would be beneficial."

She said as a first step Manatū Wāhine (the Ministry for Women) has commissioned research from the Auckland University of Technology to investigate gender and ethnic pay gaps, with the aim of highlighting gaps at a sector and occupational level, and identifying the drivers of the gaps.

"Raising awareness of gender and ethnic pay gaps across the private sector will help businesses to understand gaps in their sector, and to start taking steps to address them," Tinetti said.

Figures from Stats NZ show the gender pay gap in New Zealand has generally been falling since records began in 1998 when it sat at 16.2 percent. It fell for the following years hitting 12.3 percent in 2002 before jumping up to 14 per cent in 2005. It then generally fell until it hit 9.1 percent in 2012 before it increased again to 12 in 2016 before falling to 9.1 percent in 2021. 

On Wednesday Finance Minister Grant Robertson celebrated the wage increases calling it "extremely positive". 

"This is an extremely positive result and shows our economic plan is working despite a challenging global environment," Robertson said. 

"Unemployment is near record lows and wages are rising above inflation to help deal with the cost of living pressures. The Government is also doing its bit to support households under pressure."

Robertson also celebrated the increase in women's wages - but he didn't mention the gender pay gap. 

"Women's median weekly earnings increased by 9.9 percent for the June year, also the highest annual percentage increase on record.

"Firms are continuing to hire and more New Zealanders, particularly women, are moving from part-time work into full-time work, helping boost their earnings," he said.