Large gender pay gap causes concern

National Council of Women Southland branch president Anne McCracken, of Invercargill.

SOUTHLAND has the worst gender pay gap of all the regions in New Zealand.

Statistics New Zealand figures show Southland women earn about 15% less than the annual national average wage for women and about 37% less than Southland men.

For 2015 and the first three quarters of last year, Southland women earned about 15% less than the national median wage for women. Southland men earned about the same as the national median wage for men.

For the same period, Southland women on average earned about $5300 (37.5%) less than Southland men, whereas women in Otago, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Auckland and Northland all earned about 30% less than men in their region.

Professor of economics and director of the New Zealand Work Research Institute Gail Pacheco said the gender pay gap was not primarily caused by expected factors such as differences in education, occupation, or because women were more likely to work part-time.

Research found about 80% of the gap was because of “unexplained” factors, such as conscious and unconscious bias, or differences in men’s and women’s decisions and behaviours, which were more difficult to measure, she said.

Otago Southland Employers’ Association (OSEA) chief executive Virginia Nicholls said fixing the unexplained was never easy.

“Arguably, closing the pay gap is as much about changing preconceived perceptions and attitudes as it is about simply increasing pay rates,” she said.

Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter said this year was the 125th anniversary of New Zealand women winning the right to vote, and Southland had been heavily involved in the 1893 campaign.

“Southland’s proud history of hard working women stand it in good stead to ensure we change this injustice as well.”

The Ministry for Women was working with OSEA to discuss the gender pay gap, she said.

Ms Nicholls said a workshop was held in Dunedin in September last year encouraging employers to take action on closing the gender pay gap, hosted by OSEA and the Ministry’s chief executive Renee Graham.

Dr Pacheco presented her findings at the workshop as lead author of research commissioned by the Ministry on empirical evidence behind the gender pay gap.

OSEA and the Ministry are hosting another workshop in Invercargill this year to continue the conversation with Otago and Southland employers, employees, women’s organisations and other key stakeholders to address the gender pay gap in New Zealand.

National Council of Women, Southland branch president Anne McCracken, of Invercargill, said she supported closing the gender gap and was proud to be part of a tradition of Southland women striving for greater equality.

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