Friday, 22 February 2008

the wage gap

ok, this is appalling:

In New Zealand, men earned an average of $832 (up 10.4 per cent) and women $510 (up 7.8 per cent).

see here for full article. even adjusting for the fact that women work fewer hours, the gap is still way too much. the implications of this in the longer term are:
- it takes much longer for women to pay off their student loan, which in turn means:
- they aren't able to save money until much later in life, which in turn means:
- they don't have much saved up when they retire, which means:
- poverty in their old age (or earlier).

now we know that a significant proportion of these women are in long-term relationships, so their current standard of living will not be quite so bad. however, we also know that new zealand has quite a high divorce rate, and that women end up significantly worse off once the settlement proceeds are divided up - especially if they have custody of the children.

given that financial stress is one of the major factors leading to divorce, and given that data now shows that educated women have lower divorce rates, it's likely that divorced women will be much more likely to live in poverty.

so how do we decrease that wage gap? one way is to ensure that women get paid the same wage rates as men. despite all the human rights legislation, women are still getting paid less to do exactly the same job - particularly with higher paid jobs. the employment contracts act and the scrapping of award rates has helped a lot in that regard. because there is now a great pressure to keep wage rates secret (how many of you have had the boss say "don't tell anyone else about that bonus/pay rise because everyone didn't get one"?), often women don't know that their male counterparts are getting paid more. when wage and salary rates were open and transparent, this kind of thing didn't happen.

another way to decrease the gap is for women to work more hours. but most women with children actually want to be able to spend time with them. unless they simply can't afford it, women tend to choose part-time work in order to balance their family life. while we can encourage more women into work with better and cheaper childcare (and this government has definitely put effort & resources into that area), there is nothing that can stop that instinctive need to be with your kids.

i would also advocate for student loan rebates for women who take time out of the workforce to have children and spend a year at home with them. the paid parental leave scheme is great, but it doesn't compensate for the full wage loss of many women, and only goes to 14 weeks. it doesn't cover the fact that a women is unable to pay off her debt during this period.

in any case, this is an issue that needs more work. unfortunately, speaking out for women's financial independence these days sees you being labelled as a feminazi, or part of the sisterhood, or being too politically correct, or worse still, not having "family values". these are labels intended to try to shut us up. let's ignore them and speak out.

oh, and for those of you not on AEN, just a note that today is international mother tongue day, and this year is the UNESCO international year of languages. so go on, go out tomorrow and learn how to say hello in another language.


Anonymous said...

I agree about the wage gap, and have the following suggestions to add:

1. Encourage men into "womanly" professions, such as teaching, nursing, caregiving, cleaning. Not because they are too "feminised" but because one of the reasons they are vastly undervalued (and thus underpaid) jobs is that they are seen as women's work and thus worth less. No surprise really that a lot of these areas are also work women used to have to do for free (and many of us still do, in the context of our own homes and families).

2. Make workplaces more family friendly for parents in general, so that it becomes more acceptable for men to be the ones that take time off to care for the children, etc. Call me cynical, but I suspect if there was a significant shift towards men and women taking time out for their families (rather than mainly women as it is now) then I suspect the resourcing would follow. This would have lots of positive spin-offs.

Not a suggestion, but I am worried that if there is a change of Govt it will seriously erode any chances of pay parity for women (and indeed others who seem to routinely get paid less - Pasifika women are usually the worst off, from memory). Minimum wage rises would be ended, and I suspect all the pay equity exercises currently underway in the public sector would be cut too. :-(

Glad you are blogging, Anjum, I am enjoying reading your thoughts.

Julie Fairey

Bisbille 101 said...


We've been brainwashed to believe that women are underpaid compare to their male conterpart. This is just nonsense. If that statement was true, there would be no men working! Why, as an employer, should I pay a prime to hire able man when I can get the job done for a fraction of the price?