How to improve pay gender equality

Written By: - Date published: 8:49 am, January 15th, 2016 - 17 comments
Categories: discrimination, feminism, human rights, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s been a hardy annual finding of late – the pay gap between males and females is getting steadily worse. 2012 “Gender pay gap widens in New Zealand” *. 2013 “Pay gap between men and women slowly widening”. 2014 “The pay gap between men and women in New Zealand continued to grow last year”. 2015 “Women’s pay drops further behind men’s”. 2016 “The pay gap between men and women is the worst it’s been in almost a decade”. (The 2016 piece by Amelia Wade at The Herald is really good, looking at topics like “How much less do women earn than men?”, “Why do women earn less?”, “What’s being done to close the gap?” and more.)

Part of the blame for the pay gap lies with National governments. “One of the first acts of the incoming National Government in 1990 was to dump pay equity legislation in place at that time”. One of the first acts of the incoming National government in 2009 was to abolish the Department of Labour’s Pay and Employment Equity Unit.

Labour governments, in contrast, have been somewhat successful in closing the gap:

Over the longer term, separate figures from the quarterly employment survey show that the gender pay gap closed sharply after the Equal Pay Act of 1975 [Labour government], and again in the late 1980s and more slowly from 1997 to 2009.

The later two periods of gains coincided with Labour governments when unions were relatively strong, reflected most notably in a big 20 per cent pay rise for public sector nurses in 2005.

But the improvements stalled when unions were weakened first by the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 and again by changes such as the 90-day trial period under the current John Key-led Government which took office in 2008.

In recent events, a loss in court last year led to the formation of a government working group on equal pay which is due to report in March this year. It will be interesting to see what this group comes up with, but I’ve got some suggestions right now for improving the pay gap:

(1) Since the Equal Pay Act of 1975 had an impact we should study it, revise it, and strengthen it. (Let’s have another look at the legislation that National dumped in 1990 too.)

(2) Since a big pay rise for a female dominated profession had an impact in 2005, and since “almost half the women workers in New Zealand are in occupations that are more than 80 per cent female, and female-dominated occupations are lower paid”, we should pick some of these occupations and legislate to raise their pay.

(3) Since periods of gains for women coincided with periods when unions were “relatively strong” we should act to strengthen unions instead of undermining them.

(4) Since periods of gains for women coincided with Labour governments, and National clearly doesn’t give a damn, we should elect Labour governments.

Then there’s just the minor matter of addressing the entrenched sexism that permeates the workforce and society…


* Government figures for 2012 disagree with the quoted article, but note that it says:

The quarterly employment survey shows the gender gap has increased in the year to September by 1.3 per cent, from 12.85 per cent to 14.18 per cent. Pay Equity Challenge Coalition said it was the biggest gap it had seen in a decade.

While the Government bases its measurements on data collected annually through the NZ income survey, the Statistics New Zealand quarterly employment survey provided more regular information, obtained from employers as well as employees, she said. “The best [the gap] has ever been using the measurements we use is 12 per cent. It’s still a gap and it’s still unacceptable.”

17 comments on “How to improve pay gender equality”

  1. greywarshark 1

    RADIONZ this morning with Grant Robertson talking about work at all for humans and the trend to robotics, automation. I fear that pay equity must be fought for continually but even more the ways that work and employment can be organised with a parallel economy that comes from the grassroots. What we will get from these humanoids in politics and in business and the upper classes is more direr cant about people being self-reliant or lazy growing exponentially. While they embrace whatever is most politically and financially expedient.

    Grant Robertson talking emphatically about the way things will have to be on radio, sounded as if he was repeating word for word what might have been said in 1990.
    All about perhaps retraining for six different careers (while the state charges you for doing that). Changing education to prepare you for this changing environment where the idea of staying in a job for thirty years will be old hat. (Cripes that has been the case for so long, at such cost, that we have had to boil the hat with onions for hat stew.)

    Pay equity. Nice to have!

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/201785586
    Labour in Paris looking at future challenges
    Updated at 8:46 am today
    According to new figures, nearly half of all jobs could be automated within two decades and it’s now expected people in the workforce won’t just change jobs, but also industries during their lives.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Grant Robertson has no fucking idea what he’s talking about in terms of the “future of work”. Yet another long term 6 figure salary public servant who has very limited understanding and experience of what is going on in the real world outside of what Forbes and the Economist is telling him.

  2. greywarshark 2

    Some good news about women who have improved their conditions.
    (By co-operation, commitment to the group and support for the plan which I think is the blueprint for how we ordinary folk will help survive the future.)
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/regional/294128/they-planted-a-seed-and-boy-did-it-grow

    Refugees planted Cotton Seed and boy did it grow
    Updated at 8:28 am today
    Lauren Baker – lauren.baker@radionz.co.nz

    A clothing label designed and produced entirely by migrant and refugee women in Auckland, has gone from selling to friends and family to getting bulk commercial orders.

    • red-blooded 2.1

      All very interesting (I’m on holiday and listened to the same interviews), but not entirely relevant, surely. And, to be honest, your reference to women starting a clothing company sounds very like the “Be more self-reliant” cant that you were saying you didn’t want to hear in your first comment, greywarshark. Good on these women, but this is not how to improve the pay gap. If anything, it’s an illustration of the fact that women are often found in traditional, undervalued working roles. I bet they’d be earning more if it was a group of males who’d started an IT or mechanics business…

      There has to be an active role from government, unions, the media and the education sector, as well as from parents and of course employers and individual employees if this problem is to be solved. There was a large body of work going on amongst unions and the last Labour government, looking at how to evaluate the skills and demands of various male and female dominated working roles, so as to establish a basis for pay equity claims and government action with regards to state employees. It was slow and frustrating and the process was less than ideal, but it was happening and it was a direct attempt to deal with the problem through considered, structured action. Needless to say, the working parties and action plan were scrapped when the Nats took over. Sigh.

      Of course even that kind of approach doesn’t address the issue of bias and inequality within a workplace, biased hiring and promotions decisions etc. We still have a deeply sexist society. Look at all the fuss about the attempts to have gender equity considered when selecting Labour candidates before the last election. There’d be the same uproar about any serious attempt to take on patriarchal practices in employment.

      Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. This has to be an ongoing struggle. Women shouldn’t have to keep on re-proving the same thing again and again and again.

      • greywarshark 2.1.1

        red-blooded
        In referring to the women who have started their own business, I am indicating to red blooded women one of the ways that others are improving their position. Red blooded women are actively looking at their financial situation, and seeing how it can be improved now, not waiting ever more hopelessly for government to do the needed action and put policies in place to stop women’s wages continually falling when measured to men’s which are themselves falling.

        You refer to what I said about cant from the PTB and how it is used to continue and improve their own comfortable positions. While they embrace whatever is most politically and financially expedient. But the same line about cant can be used about low-paid women. Women should keep on requesting, demanding better minimum pay and conditions from politicians and business, but while they wait for some action, which is laggardly, it is expedient for them to take whatever steps they can to improve their uncomfortable situation.

        If their resilience leads them to forming a co-operative with other strivers or strugglers I don’t diss that. By all means try for self-reliance, always remembering that even big business gets concessions from the government, and having a mini business does not mean you are much better off than being an employee though having more regular hours, i.e. lots of hard work for small return, though eventually you may be well paid if all goes well.

        As you point out about women’s place in the employment market, they are in the underpaid sphere, and that has been revealed decades ago. It is well known and that it is difficult to bring their wages up is well revealed. The common comment that comes from RW on this will be that they should find a job in a better paid sector, or get more education and rise out of the unskilled, semi-skilled class. But this ignores the facts that these low-paid jobs are work that needs to be done, is wanted to be done, and those workers are not being fairly compensated for doing it. People should get a living wage, men or women.
        That would mean a rise far beyond measured inflation for last year.
        edited

  3. shorts 3

    I think one of the first things that need to be done is stop the use of the phrase “improve pay gender equality” – which is commonly used – eradication should be used or a similar term

    its not acceptable that a proportion of the popular is discriminated against – even worse its the majority of the population

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    and National clearly doesn’t give a damn

    This is incorrect – National does give a damn which is why they keep undermining any and all attempts to equalise pay for equal work. If employers couldn’t pay some people less then wages would increase across the board and profits would decrease and National wouldn’t allow that.

  5. Colonial Viper 5

    In terms of gender pay equity I think the plan is to drive all wages down to a convergence at the same low Vietnam/Cambodia level.

  6. David 6

    If there is a pay gap, why do companies not just employ women? They are cheaper for the same thing are they not?

  7. greywarshark 7

    David
    Good question though perhaps ingenuous. There is a sexism approach, which is similar to why employers don’t employ well qualified foreigners, called racism.

    And it may be that women don’t offer for some jobs perhaps because they have children, have been out of the work force having and caring for babies, and are not seen to be up to the minute as is required by an employer, and of course kids who go to creche are continually getting sick with some bug they have acquired from the others or vice versa. That means time off work, which is a damned nuisance to an employer.

    Then there is a new trend of conformity, where you are judged on whether you ‘fit’ and are denied consideration if you aren’t seen to be in tune with the rest of the staff. That could be called groupthink.

    Then there is simple, plain, prejudice where assumptions are made, preferences rule, and the applicant doesn’t stand a chance, is either under-qualified or over-qualified.

  8. Problem is, a lot of people are like me and think “So what?” when presented with differences in average numbers. This average is lower than that average – well, that’s kind of interesting, but completely useless. You can’t direct policy at an average number, you can only direct it at concrete situations and activities.

    By all means let’s identify actual examples of gender pay bias and address them, but that can only be done on a case-by-case basis (and not using weak arguments like “I think this job is like that one, and that one has higher pay, so that’s why I should be paid more). Average numbers are of academic interest only.

  9. Peter Lewis 9

    Part of being human is that we are hard-wired to attract and retain the best possible mate.

    For men, this means looking for the most visually attractive female, while women
    usually seek to bond with a man who is financially secure.

    So naturally women spend a lot of time on improving their appearance while men
    focus on their careers and financial security.

    Now we know the success in any endeavour is largely a function on the amount of time we spend on it, and both men and women have only 24 hours in any one day.

    So it should come as no surprise that generally women are better looking than men and men earn more than women.

    Thus any legislative attempts to remedy this imbalance are, eventually, doomed to fail while they run counter to human nature.

  10. Takere 10

    It ain’t rocket science …. just pay it!

  11. Damian 11

    In the gender-issue-era it is really strange to observe some salary discrimination in the field of sex. It apperas that one’s sex is not determined with birth, so also his/her salary depends on how will he/she feel and what woudl do with his/her body? I hope everyone see how stupid and pointless it looks.

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    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Democracy – I Don’t Think So
    So, those who “know best” have again done their worst. While constantly claiming to be the guardians of democracy and the constitution, and respecters of the 2016 referendum result, diehard Remainers (who have never brought themselves to believe that their advice could have been rejected) have striven might and main ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago

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