Kiwi female doctors earn 12 percent less than male doctors

Kiwi female doctors earn less than their male counterparts, according to new research.

A study of New Zealand's district health boards (DHBs) by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research has shown women in senior positions on average earn 12.5 percent less than men in the same positions.

"We compared doctors of the same age, in the same specialty, who work the same number of hours each week and found women earn substantially less than men," said lead author of the report Isabelle Sin.

"We tried improving our controls for experience and throwing in all the other personal and job characteristics that might matter, but we just couldn't explain most of the gender pay gap."

The study combined 2013 census data about the number of hours worked with earnings data to calculate the hourly wage for the full population of doctors across New Zealand's DHBs.

The findings suggest men are placed on a higher starting wage than women, and men who move between DHBs are placed on higher salaries than equally experienced women.

"We are quite frankly appalled that this is able to happen - it's illegal in many ways," said Motu policy and research director Charlotte Chambers. "It's a contravention of the Fair Pay Act."

For specialists with children, the wage gap rises to 14 percent for one child and up to 17 percent for women with two or more children.

"On average specialists who are women take five months off to have a baby. However, the wage gaps for parents can't be explained by time out of the paid workforce," said Dr Sin.

This is because the contract under which medical specialists are employed ensures any specialist who has up to 12 months of parental leave must get the same regular pay increases as other doctors.

Smaller DHBs have larger disparities.

"DHBs that employ fewer than 200 doctors have the largest wage gaps, averaging 19 percent," said Dr Sin.

The pay gap also increases for specialists who work fewer hours - despite specialists who work part-time usually being paid more.

Dr Chambers says DHBs need to take notice and pay audits introduced.

"The responsibility for fixing this problem falls squarely on the shoulder of the employer. They are the ones who employ doctors, and they are the ones who should be remunerating them fairly... It's time for the Government and time for the district health boards to sort this problem out."