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Wide pay gap women’s biggest Suffrage Day concern

Human Rights Commission
Media Release
19 September 2006

Wide pay gap women’s biggest concern on Suffrage Day

The wide pay gap between the sexes means that pay equity must be a priority for women’s progress, says EEO Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor today on Suffrage Day.

“Women’s labour market participation is at its highest ever level which is fantastic in terms of employment opportunities. All New Zealanders can celebrate on Suffrage Day the great gains women have made in getting work. But it is only part of the picture. How much women get paid in fulltime and part-time work is also critical and whether the work they do is “decent” or “awful”.

“Latest statistics from the 2006 Social Report show the difference between the sexes in median hourly earnings is greatest at ages 45 to 64, where female earnings are only 78% of those received by men.

“This gap comes at a time when women are trying to maximise their earnings for family reasons and to build assets for retirement and old age.

“At an aggregate level, women still earn on average 86 cents per hour for every $1 earned by men, according to the Quarterly Employment Survey, June 2006.“

The New Zealand Income Survey is another measure of the gender pay gap. Average hourly earnings from the June quarter 2005 indicated the gender pay gap might be widening with women earning 82% of the hourly rate paid to men. Next month’s New Zealand Income Survey figures for the June 2006 year will show if the gap is growing or closing.

Specific and deliberate strategies around pay equity have to be continued and strengthened because the gender pay gap will not be resolved through ordinary market approaches and bargaining mechanisms, Dr McGregor said.

The Government may need to accelerate and strengthen its five year commitment to the Pay and Employment Equity Unit which is currently working in the education, health and public sectors.

The wider gap for part-time work may also reflect the reality of some women having to accept lesser paid jobs when re-entering the labour market after having a family. Three predominantly part-time occupations – cleaners, care-givers and sales assistants are female dominated, low paid and employ more than one in 10 of the female workforce and an even higher proportion of Pasifika and Māori women.

Over 95% of caregivers are women, most earning between $10 and $11 an hour, in part-time and insecure work, with a very high proportion having no recognised qualification.

“Caregivers provide support to elderly and disabled people at home and in the community including residential homes. It is vitally important work and yet how much does our society value the work that women do?”

Pay equity remains a significant concern for New Zealand women 113 years after women first got the vote, Dr McGregor said.

ENDS

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