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Legislation Not Appropriate

The makeup of the workforce, individual choice, social change and what males and females earn are not simple issues. They cannot be successfully manipulated by central government planning backed by legislation, Employers’ Federation Deputy CEO, Anne Knowles said today.

This follows the Alliance party release of its proposal to introduce so-called pay equity legislation if it becomes the Government after the election

“Legislation is not appropriate,” said Ms Knowles. “The male/female earnings gap has narrowed over the last few years. Latest figures from May 1999 show that women earned 83.9% of men’s average ordinary time hourly earnings, up from 78.8% in 1987.

“Ms Harre considers we need legislation to bring us into line with the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland but those countries all have worse track records than New Zealand. In 1997 United Kingdom women received 69.7% of men’s average wage, Irish women 69% and Canadian women 63.7% (The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Washington D.C.).

“The reasons for this gap are varied, and often relate to the life-style choices that men and women make. Having the kind of centrally planned labour market the Alliance proposes, will certainly not help them.

“What makes the difference is greater participation by women in higher education and their move into higher level jobs. Females now outnumber males in tertiary education (1998, 251,000 students) and their dominance is growing.

“This, along with societal and attitude changes, will flow into higher average female incomes. After all we now have a woman Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Chief Justice, and Chief Executive of our largest company.

“These women did not achieve these positions because of a piece of legislation.

“The Federation is strongly supportive of current anti discrimination law so that women cannot, because of their sex, be paid differently from men for doing the same job.

But trying to centrally plan the whole labour force and force employers to pay more because they employ 60% women is a nonsense. Wage increases without any increase in productivity simply produce job losses - and for the very women Ms Harre thinks she would be helping” Ms Knowles concluded.

ends

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