Cost no excuse to pay women less - Jacinda Ardern

Cost is not a concern for the Prime Minister when it comes to getting pay equity for women.

The Government announced at the weekend it is aiming for women in the public service to be paid the same as men within four years.

Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter told TVNZ's Q+A on Sunday it was a priority, and would be achieved partly by making equity a key performance indicator for Government agencies.

On Monday morning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would initially apply to the core public service, which employs around 35,000 people.

"We should all want pay equity, shouldn't we? Our view is if you're going to be a champion, you've got to start at the centre," she told The AM Show.

"We don't want that to be the end point of course, but we want to lead from the front."

A pay equity settlement in April for low-paid health care workers - most of them women - cost the Government $2 billion. Ms Ardern says even if the Government's new drive for equity costs that again, or even more, it's not an excuse.

"I don't think it's good enough to say women shouldn't be paid what they deserve because it costs too much. That is not an explanation. I don't want to let those aspirations be curtailed by a view that we can't afford to pay women what they deserve."

She's not sure what it will cost to get women in the public service earning as much as their male colleagues.

"At this point we've been in a week and a bit, we haven't had a chance to scope that - but we have given ourselves enough space over four years to work that through."

Under the April settlement, care workers on the present minimum wage of $15.75 saw their pay jump to $23.50. It's expected to rise further to $27 over five years.

In August, a Wellington academic claimed sexism was the primary driver of the wage gap, with her research finding women in the workplace are just as productive as men.

New Zealand already ranks well internationally, with the World Economic Forum saying Kiwi women are the ninth-best paid in the world, compared to men.

As Prime Minister, Ms Ardern earns $493,655 a year, plus allowances - a lot more than her male rival, Opposition leader Bill English.

Bill English got a pay cut, swapping jobs with Jacinda Ardern.
Bill English got a pay cut, swapping jobs with Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub.

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