The average hourly pay gap between men and women has been under the spot light this week with reports that it has leaped up by 1.3% to 14.1%. The Minister for Women’s Affairs responded by saying this was the wrong figure; we need to consider the median hourly wage gap which has decreased, slightly.
I could go to some lengths to explain the difference between these two and the differences in the research that produced them, but that would be a bit of a distraction really.
Even if we dispute the importance of the average hourly pay gap figure we can’t deny the entrenched gender pay gap, or the much much worse weekly pay gap which is around 20%.
The Minister can argue the data, but can she argue the point? Women are economically disadvantaged in our economy and this is not getting better.
The core Government strategy that deals with employment is the Building Skilled and safe Workplaces.
I recently asked the Minister of tertiary Education Skills and Employment, What, if any, of the 62 separate actions that the Government has committed to in the Building Skilled and Safe Workplaces progress report are expected to help enhance gender equity in the workforce?
His response was “The Business Growth Agenda sets out a blueprint for a higher performing economy from which all New Zealanders will benefit. In particular, the ‘Building Skilled and Safe Workplaces’ action plan aims to lift skills, improve workplace safety and reduce long-term welfare dependency. My view is that creating more sustainable high-paying jobs and boosting our standard of living will enhance gender equity in the workforce.”
I did a search of the document for the word woman, women and gender. The search result: No matches found, on all three counts.
The gender pay gap is a rights/equity issue but it’s also a productivity issue according Goldman Sachs. I don’t support much of their argument, which doesn’t value women’s unpaid work or traditionally low paid caring work, however when Goldman Sachs is recommending the Government “look at ways to close the gender income gap to further incentivise females to remain in the workforce” we need to recognise the problem goes beyond idealogy.
It’s not enough to wring our hands, say it’s complicated or ignore it. There are specific and tangible things we can do, including adopting my members bill, putting the issue back on the work programme, and include gender specific actions in the Government’s growth agenda.