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Book published today about the gender pay gap in New Zealand

Book published today about the gender pay gap in New Zealand

Today well-known feminist economist Prue Hyman has published a new book, Hopes Dashed? The Economics of Gender Inequality.

This timely book directly speaks to many of the issues raised in recent reports on New Zealand’s gender pay gap.

Hyman analyses the structural problems and policies that work against women in the workforce, such as a low minimum wage and the systematic under-valuing of low-paid female-dominated professions, such as aged care.

Rather than simply chart the problem, Hyman explores bigger solutions that are needed for women to achieve pay equity. She tackles questions like, how can we create economic measures that recognise women’s unpaid work? And how could that work be better rewarded?

Extract from Hopes Dashed?

In some respects the position of women in the labour market has improved in the last 23 years – for example, more are succeeding in tertiary education, entering professional employment and moving up hierarchies. The labour-force participation rates for men and women have tracked closer together, but women still have a greater burden of unpaid work. Equal employment opportunity [EEO] has become accepted as a concept, with some level of government oversight, even if the application of EEO measures is not yet a universal reality. And there is a reasonable, though not yet adequate, provision of paid parental leave for parents in the paid workforce. But that offers only a very minor recognition of women’s unpaid efforts.

On the negative side, the gender wage gap has barely improved in the past decade and women are still underrepresented in top jobs. And the differences among women have worsened, as they have for men, with neo-liberal economics and policies biased towards advancing the interests of the rich and big business. Women low-income earners and sole parents, many of them juggling paid and unpaid work and attempting to manage family life, are no better off than they were in 1994. Some are in fact worse off relative to the wealthy and even in absolute terms.

So what else is needed? Clearly the general policies advocated for low income earners, such as increasing the minimum wage and working towards paying a true living wage, would help, as would reducing differentials in the labour market overall. The gender-specific policies needed include a continuation of the fight for pay equity and improved ways of combining paid and unpaid work. The acknowledgement of unpaid work is one of several arguments for a universal basic income. Also needed is a real commitment to new indicators that measure community well-being, not just money and growth as the only measures of value.

- Prue Hyman, Hopes Dashed? The Economics of Gender Inequality (Bridget Williams Books, 2017), pp.127-129.


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