Widening ethnic pay gap worsens in New Zealand

Dr Jackie Blue

A concerted effort to eliminate ethnic pay gaps will be required if we are to achieve the Prime Minister’s and the Minister for Women’s goal of closing the gender pay gap in the core public services over the next four years.

Pay gap data, released today by the State Services Commission, shows that there has been no improvement in Pacific, Maori and Asian pay gaps and that the pay gap for Pacific people is worsening.

The State Services Commission has led the way in New Zealand when it comes to publishing their data, but now is the time to focus on really addressing the issues that create the gender pay gap.

Unacceptable situation

Ethnic pay gaps within core public services have remained unacceptably high for the past ten years. All levers to address the gender pay gap, including closing the ethnic pay gap, must be used.

We know the critical times when the gap begins at the start of their career, when women may accept the lower part of the salary band and then explodes when they take career breaks to have a family.

Experience show us they never catch it up.

While SSC has been publishing their gender pay gap by department since 2015 and CEOs are required to regularly report what they are doing to reduce the gap – these efforts need to be redoubled.

Structural changes needed

The gap grows significantly when women take time out to have a family.

There are structural changes that can be made such as ensuring that they do not miss out on their regular wage increases and are supported back into their work when they return.

Flexible work options are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but must be an accepted and legitimate part of the modern workplace.

It is also important that effort is put towards achieving paid parental leave for men in their own right so that sharing child care between parents becomes the norm.

Importantly, budget needs to be allocated to achieve the goal of achieving a zero-gender pay gap in the core public services.

Reducing the gender pay gap is complex but there are some obvious places to start and that needs to begin in earnest.

Dr Jackie Blue is Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner of New Zealand.

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