Yesterday Paula Bennett engaged in a bit of grandstanding: Call to action on closing the Gender Pay Gap. It’s a bit hollow after eight long years. It’s a bit hollow after the Nats abolished the Department of Labour’s Pay and Employment Equity Unit. It’s a bit hollow after they blocked the Greens’ Pay Equity Bill. National in government have been no friend of women. Here’s some more historical context:
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, 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.
The latest round of attention to this topic has been triggered by a new report with some interesting findings:
Bias against women accounts for 80 per cent of gender pay gap – research
The gender pay gap very much exists in New Zealand, and the cause of it is mostly down to bias, perception and attitude, according to new research.It’s the first empirical evidence since 2003, showing that inequality in pay – which was weighted in favour of men – could not be explained by differences in education, occupation and industry, or part-time work. The pay gap had remained static at about 12 per cent for a decade, [debatable, see footnote] but those factors only accounted for 20 per cent of it. Researchers found 80 per cent of wage inequality was caused by differences in behaviour between men and women, as well as either conscious or unconscious bias, that negatively affected women’s opportunities for recruitment and wage advancement. …
It’s obvious that the pay gap is partly due to entrenched bias, but really interesting to see a figure put on it – 80% is huge [update: pointed out in comments that headline is misleading vs actual text].
Bennett is calling on employers to “conduct gender pay audits and to declare the results”. As if that is going to happen. If the Nats were serious about addressing the pay gap there is much more they could do. Instead of voluntary audits, how about some legislation? Eight long years – and counting.
Footnote: The report also claims that the pay gap essentially unchanged (around 12.7%) since 2003. Other figures seem to tell a different story: 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.)