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Gender pay gap shrinking

Media release 2 October 2003

Gender pay gap shrinking

The gap between men's and women's pay in New Zealand is shrinking. The latest New Zealand Income Survey shows women earn on average 12.9% less than men. This compares with 1997, the first year of the survey, when the gap was 17.2%. The gap has narrowed every year but one since the beginning of the survey.

Business NZ Executive Director Anne Knowles says the shrinking gap is good news and indicates a healthy employment environment. But she says it's important not to draw unrealistic inferences from the data.

"We can reasonably expect the gap to keep reducing, but it would be a mistake to assume that a zero gap is inevitable, as many women will continue to have breaks from the paid workforce to have children, and the job market naturally pays a premium for continuity. Choices made by women to study certain subjects and work in certain occupations also affect income levels."

Ms Knowles says it's a fact of life that many women will choose to have breaks in employment to care for their children, and also to choose certain occupations and areas of study, which are largely responsible for the earnings gap. She says 'pay equity' undertakings aimed at achieving complete parity between men's and women's earnings fail to take account of this.

In tandem with the reducing wage gap, the Income Survey also shows that for the June 2003 quarter, 30.9% of the top income bracket were females. This proportion has increased each year since 1997, when it was 25.7%.

NZ Average Hourly Earnings Gender gap
Males Females
1997 $13.96 $11.56 17.2%
1998 $16.4 $13.63 16.9%
1999 $16.73 $13.97 16.5%
2000 $16.7 $14.47 13.4%
2001 $17.71 $14.93 15.7%
2002 $17.94 $15.36 14.4%
2003 $19.02 $16.57 12.9%

NZ Income Survey, see

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