It’s 2023 and Aotearoa still has a gender pay gap. There are also still people who deny the gender pay gap even exists. So, what should you say if you come across any of these naysayers?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but whenever a story about New Zealand’s gender pay gap appears on social media, a lot of angry comments are found underneath it. 

Although, usually not from the women who on average are paid 8.6% less than men, but from people who believe the gender pay gap is a myth.

If you have one of these gender pay gap deniers in your social circle, here are some handy facts to keep at the ready for the following arguments.

‘There’s no difference in pay between men and women doing the same work’

If a woman at your work is being paid the same as her male colleague, this doesn’t mean the gender pay gap doesn’t exist. In fact, by law, men and women must be paid the same amount for the same job

The gender pay gap is a high-level measure of the difference between men’s and women’s earnings across the entire workforce, not just specific sectors. It’s a comparison between the hourly earnings of men and women in full- and part-time work across the country.

New Zealand’s current gender pay gap is 8.6%, according to data from Statistics New Zealand. This effectively means women are working for free from today for the rest of the year.

However, the pay gap is even wider when ethnicity is taken into consideration

Data shows Māori women are paid 14.3% less on average than all men in Aotearoa, while Pacific women are paid 15.2% less on average. 

Asian women are paid 12.1% less and MELAA (Middle Eastern/Latin American/African) women are paid 18.2% less. Pākehā women are paid 4.5% on average than all men. 

Data on the pay gap for New Zealand’s gender diverse people is limited. 

The previous Labour government floated the idea of making private companies with more than 250 employees report on their pay equity late in the parliamentary term, but had not drafted legislation to do so.

Some companies already voluntarily report on pay scales between their employees on the Mind The Gap registry.

The new Government has not yet revealed its plans, if any, for mandatory pay gap reporting. The gender pay gap didn’t appear as a policy priority in National’s coalition agreements with either ACT or New Zealand First. 

A National Council of Women of New Zealand survey prior to the election found ACT opposed mandatory public reporting of gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps, while National was yet to decide. 

However, new Minister for Women Nicola Grigg said she shared frustrations with the existing pay gap.

“Previous National-led governments have made significant progress towards achieving a reduction in the gender pay gap and it is a key focus area I plan to prioritise during my time as Minister,” she said. 

“Rebuilding the economy and restoring hiring confidence of businesses is the number one objective for the new coalition government, and in doing so women must be duly considered so further inequalities do not eventuate. I will also be advancing policy solutions to addressing the pay gap in the near future.”

‘The pay gap is because of women’s choices’

Another common argument around the gender pay gap is that it’s because women choose to take time off work to have children or choose to work part-time or work in lower-paid sectors.

There are obviously a lot of social and economic factors that limit women’s choices in employment, such as the continued unequal division of unpaid care work between men and women or because of stereotypes associated with certain jobs.

But even with all that aside, research shows things like education or skills gaps or job sector choice only account for 20% of the gender pay gap

The other 80% is described as “unexplained”, with unconscious bias or discrimination likely factors. 

‘The pay gap doesn’t really matter though, does it? Women are doing okay.’

The inequity in the average New Zealander’s pay can really make itself felt when it comes to retirement.

Women are disproportionately worse off than men in retirement, according to the Retirement Commission. It says the gender pay gap is one of the reasons for that.

“The impact of working part-time, gender bias and gender pay gaps disadvantage women and are reflected in KiwiSaver balances at 65 years old,” it said in a report last year.

KiwiSaver figures from December last year showed women’s balances were on average 25% lower than men’s. That gap had widened year-on-year and did not appear to be due to fund choice, withdrawal or suspension behaviour. 

The issues that come with the continued gender pay gap is why Global Women, a group of influential New Zealand leaders, has called on all people to look at what they can do to close that gap.

People can’t be complacent, Theresa Gattung, Chair of Global Women said.

“As a country we have come a long way in recognising the latent value of a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce,” she said. 

“However, the existence of the pay gap means more needs to be done.”

Global Women is asking people to talk to their places of work about the pay gap and what is being done to address it.

“We need to keep challenging ourselves to do better until there is no pay gap to talk about,” Gattung said.

More stories:

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Māori women can miss out on more $400K compared to Pākehā men over a 40-year working life.

Why working hard doesn’t always make you rich

“I will be a Māori Millionaire.”

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In this opinion piece, student Jessica Licht says it’s time the Government to listen to teachers.