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Pay gap undermining women’s options, says PSA

Pay gap undermining women’s options, says PSA

In the week leading up to International Women’s Day, on March 8, the PSA launched It’s Time: Pay and Employment Equity Agenda, an ongoing plan of activities to remove the pay gap that exists between men and women.

In New Zealand, women’s average earnings are 84% those of men’s. “This pay gap of 16% affects women’s lifestyle choices, family income, their children’s wellbeing and financial security in retirement,” said PSA national secretary Lynn Middleton.

Research shows that the pay gap is due mainly to three factors: work done mainly by women is often valued less highly than men’s work; women carry an unequal share of family responsibilities; and gender discrimination in pay scales.

The It’s Time launch took place over a series of symposiums which canvassed the latest thinking and approaches to addressing inequities in the workplace. They were attended not only by PSA members but also by government Ministers, chief executives, commissioners and Dr Jane Pillinger, an internationally-renowned expert on pay equity.

“As the public service union, the PSA has a particular place in achieving pay and employment equity. The state is the biggest employer of women and historically, the PSA has led the way for equal pay,” national secretary Lynn Middleton told the symposium, held at the Legislative Council Chamber on Friday March 7.

She emphasised that pay and employment equity was an issue of fairness, not just for women workers but also for other groups at the bottom of the pay ladder, including Maori and Pacific workers and those with disabilities.

Achieving pay and employment equity will have enormous consequences including a fairer society and a stronger and more dynamic economy, Lynn Middleton said. “And working in the state sector will be more attractive when pay rates and employment conditions are fair and equitable.”

Judy McGregor, the newly appointed and first Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, told the seminar that “pay equity is a fundamental human right”. Her role specifically includes monitoring and advising on pay equity.

Symposium participants identified a number of strategies that would contribute to ending the pay gap including raising the minimum wage as the lowest paid workers are mainly women, and requiring employers to review pay systems and take action to remove inequities.

Work-life balance, family-friendly workplaces and affordable quality childcare were also cited as factors that would contribute to fairer employment opportunities.

“There is no single solution,” said Lynn Middleton. “New Zealand women were the first to get the vote. The PSA issues the challenge to government, employers and unions that we should be the first to fully close the pay gap. It’s time! Ko tae te wä!”

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