New Zealand's gender pay gap widens after trending down for nearly a decade

After trending down for almost a decade, Newshub can reveal the gender pay gap has widened - and COVID-19 is being blamed.

Māori and Pasifika women now earn on average about 25 percent less than Pākehā men and are effectively working for free for the rest of the year.

The pay gap has been trending down since 2014 when women earned on average 14.3 percent less than men. It increased slightly in 2018 then got to 9.9 percent in 2020.

But it has increased again and women now earn on average 10.8 percent less than men, the Council of Trade Union says.

For Māori and Pasifika women, the gap is even worse. Pasifika women earn on average 27 percent less than Pākehā men and wāhine Māori earn almost 25 percent less.

It means that compared to Pākehā men, Pasifika women effectively started working for free on September 22, wāhine Māori on October 3, Asian women on October 23, and Pākehā women on November 15.

CTU policy director and economist Craig Renney has a message for women in light of the widened pay gap.

"Women shouldn't get pissed off - they should get organised."

As it turns out, COVID-19 is partially to blame since the sectors in which women are over-represented suffered the most as a result of the pandemic, Renney says.

Women coming out of the pandemic worse off than men was no surprise since the International Monetary Fund warned last year that it would happen.

Minister for Women Jan Tinetti says she would love to see the pay gap eliminated tomorrow since no pay gap is acceptable - and she's working on a fix.

"I don't want to get to future labour market shocks. We need to have something that's much more enduring as a solution," she says.

Former veterinary nurse Antoinette Ratcliffe was forced to leave her job last year after 16 years of trying to make ends meet - coupled with COVID-19 - became too much.

Vet nurses are predominantly women, and despite being very skilled, wages are low.

"They were just - just - above living wage," she says.

After trading pets for taxidermy last year, she found being a struggling artist came with a pay rise.

"I couldn't actually afford to go back to being a vet nurse because the actual wages don't cover my cost of living anymore," Ratcliffe says.

Tinetti says she wants to shrink the pay gap and is putting out a national action plan for women in March.