Written By: - Date published: 8:49 am, January 15th, 2016 - 17 comments
Categories: discrimination, feminism, human rights, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: citizens and ratepayers, Equal pay, equality, feminism, gender pay gap, pay, pay equity, sexism
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…
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.”