International (Working) Women’s Day

Today is the day we salute the efforts of women everywhere for equity and justice for our gender and as workers.

This year, our hearts and thoughts start and finish with women in Christchurch. I spent the weekend door-knocking on the streets of Aranui, Wainoni and New Brighton which are all low-income areas hit hard by the earthquake.

About a third of the houses I visited were empty, but I spoke with a number of women who were staying on despite still having no electricity, no running water and no easily accessible toilets. I hope they all have at least one of those basic services by now.

I was moved by many stories but particularly by the struggles of women struggling to feed and care for children under these dire conditions. It turned cold and rained and there were many holes in their houses. A grandmother told me that her 8-year-old grandson hadn’t left her side in two weeks because – like many children – he is traumatised and afraid.

All the women I met were working hard to survive and look after each other. I call them all “working women” but I also take my hat off to the fantastic women volunteering with the men in relief centres of all kinds. They are working to meet need like they have never worked before.

This day also reminds us about the status of women in the job market. The lack of gender pay equity is a mark of shame on this nation. At lunchtime, I signed a pledge to work towards pay equity with the Pay Equity Challenge Coalition.

The minimum wage is far too low and badly affects women workers. The Welfare Working Group Report is not just an attack on beneficiaries, it is a multifaceted attack on lower income working women: the more draconian the benefit system and the more desperate the people, the easier it is to keep wages low. Between the recession, free market capitalist ideology from the Government, and the earthquake,we now face ridiculously huge challenges and women as usual are on the front line.

We want more than a place on a Board. Much as I would like to see more women on these boards I am yet to see the evidence that says these women become advocates for change for lower-income women.

We want more than the vision outlined by Julia Gillard when she spoke in our Parliament about ANZAC solidarity in war, sport and free trade with no mention of women’s or children’s issues.

We want our communities, especially Christchurch, to recover in a manner that upholds the dignity, the needs and the rights of all working women. Because if we achieve that goal humanity across this country will thrive!

7 Comments Posted

  1. Equal pay and pay equity are not the same thing and actually we still have no surety that equal pay for women is being upheld. There is very little data kept by employers on gender and pay so its very hard for people to prove that women are being discriminated against. Ask the labour lawyers about the case law and its not a happy story.

  2. You’re incorrigible, Photonz1. Your old fixation on the breeding habits of the poor is just a diversion.

    Many women work in caring and supporting roles and these are appallingly badly paid. As an example; a teacher aid can work supporting a high needs child needing a great deal of experience, skill and maturity. They will be paid a little over the minimum wage and despite working in a school for over ten years will have no job security and could still be employed on a fixed term basis. They could also be a solo parent and reliant on the income for ongoing financial commitments. It was suggested by the Ministry that support staff in Christchurch could be laid off after a few weeks while teachers would remain on the payroll. Support staff are not centrally funded and their pay comes out of a school’s bulk grant, every time a deserved pay increase is achieved they have their hours cut because there is no extra money to pay them, yet they are a vital part of any school and comprise about 1/3 of all staff. If you look at resthome employees or home help services you will find a similar lack of job security and recognition of skills. Where’s the fairness?

  3. sprout says “The fact that 20% of our children live in relative poverty is partly due to the fact that single parents who are also female have little choice but to work in low paid jobs.”

    But mainly because the poorest in decile 1 have 75% more children than the people in decile 10.

    In fact they have between 50% to 75% more children than most people – the 70% of people in upper, average and below average deciles (i.e. deciles 10, 9 , 8, 7, 6, 5, and 4.).

    Comes back to the same thing – the people who can least afford to support children have the most.

    This also applies to deciles 2 and 3 who also have significantly more children than the rest of the population.

  4. Photonz1 You seem to be able to grab something that has partial truth then run with it as something more profound than it is. The fact is that there are many jobs that women do that are paid less because there are predominantly women doing them. Your are right in saying that if men did the same job their pay would be similar but if you compared that job with one that is predominantly male that has similar skill and work requirements you will find some serious anomalies. Teacher aids, aged care workers, cleaners, social workers and many secretaries barely get over the minimum wage despite needing a range of skills well beyond a young school leaver new to the workforce.’s-legacy-betrayed/
    The fact that 20% of our children live in relative poverty is partly due to the fact that single parents who are also female have little choice but to work in low paid jobs. it is a growing disgrace this government has deliberately blocked addressing the inequities that have been shown to exist. Shame, shame, shame!

  5. Catherine says “The lack of gender pay equity is a mark of shame on this nation.”


    If you know of a single cases, anywhere in the country where a woman is being paid less because of her gender, then why don’t you complain about it – it’s illegal.

    In reality, womens average pay is lower because
    – they often have several years less experience because they take time off to have children. My wife just took a decade off and has gone back to work. Should she autoamtically get paid the same as the colleagues she used to work with, who now have twice her experience, more training, and have worked their way up the ladder?
    – they often go back to part time jobs with lower skill levels and lower pay. Nearly every mother I know who has gone back to work, works at a job much lower skilled and paid than their previous profession, to enable them to work fewer hours and pick up their kids from school, take them to sport, music etc.
    – after taking a break from any profession, it’s often hard to re-enter, especailly at the same level, so many women (and a smaller number of men in this situation) take jobs lower on the ladder or other jobs with lower pay.
    – few work in those professions that are highly paid because of the danger i.e forestry, mining, fireman, etc.

    So there are many legitimate reasons why women get lower pay. It you find any where it is simply because of their gender, then let us know – and make a complaint.

    How many complaints have you made?

  6. Something positive women can do to support efforts being made in Christchurch right now: Women’s Refuge are collecting pre-pay phone vouchers, petrol vouchers and cash to support the Refuge workers in Christchurch who have been inundated since the earthquake.
    Details here:

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