A DigitalNZ Story by Zokoroa
How far has NZ come with equal pay and pay equity since women were granted the vote in the 1893? This story shows how the gender pay gap, pay parity within and between occupations, and minimum wages were represented by cartoonists and news media. .
How far has NZ come with equal pay and pay equity since women were granted the vote in 1893? Equal pay is when men and women get paid the same for doing the same work - equal pay for equal work. Pay equity is when women and men receive the same pay for doing jobs that are different, but of equal value (that is, jobs that require similar degrees of skills, responsibility and effort). Let's explore NZ's gender pay gap for women through the eyes of cartoonists and the news media. We'll look at attitudes to women workers; the legislative journey for equal pay; and female-dominated professions and pay parity. We'll also celebrate successes along the way leading up to the Equal Pay Amendment Act 2020 which introduced a process for hearing claims.
Based on Oxfam's 2017 report, "An economy for the 99%", women would take 170 years to be paid the same as men due to women often taking on low-paying jobs and facing high levels of discrimination in the workplace.
History shows employment opportunities and pay being set according to gender. Recently, the Ministry for Women released two reports, Empirical evidence of the gender pay gap in New Zealand (March 2017) and Parenthood and labour market outcomes (May 2018). The results found that factors such as differences in education, occupations that men and women are employed in, and women being more likely to work part-time accounted for around 20 per cent of the current gender pay gap. The other 80 per cent was owing to "unexplained" factors such as conscious and unconscious bias. Societal attitudes and beliefs about the types of work appropriate for women have been satirised in the following cartoons.
At the national Gender Equality Conference held in Wellington (2016), the Tertiary Education Union and Statistics NZ shared survey findings. Whereas Pākehā women on average earned 84% of the average weekly wage of Pākehā men, Asian women earned 77%, Māori women earned 72%, and Pasifika women earned 57%.
During the Gender Equality Conference, Statistics NZ explored whether education qualifications were a contributing factor for the pay inequities. However, the findings showed that Māori, Pasifika and Filipino New Zealander women outnumbered men with a Bachelor's degree: 200 Māori women for every 100 Māori men; 190 Pasifika women aged under their 30s for every 100 males; and 140 Filipino New Zealanders for every 100 men. There were similar numbers of Indian and Chinese male and female graduates with a Bachelor's degree. With regards to a post-graduate qualification, there were twice as many Pasifika, Filipino New Zealander and Korean women compared with men.
Conference quest speaker Shamubeel Eaqub commented that the disparities in wages were because sexism is institutionalised across NZ, from the top down in politics, public policy and the business community: "The system is stacked, and the system is discriminatory. There are more men in positions of power and they discriminate. There is this uneven playing field. We need to have a public policy solution that evens this out by force. [So positive discrimination?] Absolutely." (Source: Radio New Zealand: Equal pay? Not for women of colour, 24 Oct 2016)
A group of prominent women led by the Māori Women's Welfare League filed a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal in 1993. They were seeking to address inequities experienced in employment for Māori women resulting from the Crown's actions and policies since 1840 systemically discriminating against Māori women. The impetus for the claim had been the removal of Dame Mira Szaszy, a past President of the League, from the shortlist of appointees to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. The Tribunal announced in January 2018 that it would hear the Mana Wāhine claim and formally initiated the inquiry on 20 December 2018 (Wai 2700, #2.5.8).
The Public Service Association's Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina also lodged a claim on the pay disparity experienced by Māori women in the government sector, which was officially registered in January 2019 by the Tribunal as part of its Mana Wāhine Kaupapa Inquiry. A judicial conference was convened on 27 May 2020 to discuss the scope and structure of the Mana Wāhine Kaupapa Inquiry and to draft terms of reference. For progress reports, see Waitangi Tribunal: Mana Wāhine Inquiry.
In May 2019, a Pasifika Women in the Workforce event was organised in Porirua by the Komiti Pasifika which is the NZ of Council of Trade Union's representative structure for Pacific Island workers. Accounts of institutional racisim, discrimination and pay inequality were shared with the Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO) Commissioner, Saunoamaali'i Dr Karanina Sumeo.
Statistics New Zealand report Effect of motherhood on pay (2017) found there was a 17 percent pay gap between what mothers and fathers earn in the workforce relative to women and men without children. Research commissioned by the Ministry for Women (2018) found women face a 4.4 percent drop in hourly wages after having a child.
The first legislation in NZ to regulate factory employment was the Employment of Females Act of 1873 which dealt with hours of work, holidays, sanitation, and ventilation, but was inadequately enforced. In 1881 the Employment of Females and Others Act placed further restriction on hours of work and provided for overtime to be paid at penal rates, but also lacked adequate enforcement. A Royal Commission (1890) set up to inquire into allegations of sweated labour found a considerable number of cases of exploitation of workers, such as girls working 18 hours a day for 7 shillings to 8 shillings a week. The Factories Act 1891 was passed and in the first months of operation, inspectors required improvements and alterations in 913 factories. It was replaced by the Factories Act 1894; then the Factories Act 1946 which provided for a maximum of a 40 hour week in any factory and an 8 hour day (excluding a meal break). (See An encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966)
The first legislation governing working conditions in shops in NZ was the Shops and Shop Assistants Act of 1892, which lacked effective enforcement measures. It was replaced by the Shops and Shop Assistants Act 1894 which was enforced by factory inspectors. The weekly hours of women of all ages and of boys under 18 years was limited to 52 hours and their daily hours limited to 9.5 hours, with the exception that on one working day in each week 11.5 hours might be worked. In 1904 it was re-enacted as the Shops and Offices Act 1904, which was later re-enacted again in 1908, in 1921–22, and in 1955. Both shops and offices were subjected to a 40-hour week but restrictions on overtime for shops did not apply to offices, nor the opening and closing hours of shops apply to offices. (See An encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966)
The Labour Day Act commemorated the struggle of the workers' movement for men and women to work a maximum of an eight-hour day and gave workers one paid day as a holiday annually in October.
A notable event occurred during World War II when the New Zealand National Tramways Union, which was formed in 1939, became the first Union in New Zealand to win equal pay for women members. Due to the wartime shortage of manpower, from 1942 women were employed as tram conductors. Whereas the employers wanted to pay lower wages, the Union Executive insisted on equal pay for equal work and won.
During the period of the Liberal government (1890–1912) ministers often appointment allies and friends at all levels of public employment. In 1913, the position of Public Service Commissioner was established to oversee appointments of public servants, excluding the Post and Telegraph Office and the Railways Department. The Commissioner classified all public-service jobs and graded the position-holders, which formed the basis of the pay rates applied across the public service. Appointments were to be made on merit and a public-service appeal board was set up which could review any appointment. During 1956, the Public Service Association (PSA) became involved in employment disputes with the Public Service Commission and the government over the pay and promotion of its women members.
In November 1956, the PSA equal pay committee called a meeting of representatives of women’s organisations and trade unions to discuss forming a national body to work toward equal pay for equal work in both the public and private sectors. The outcome was the establishment of the Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity (CEPO) on 10 April 1957. Membership included major unions, including the North Island Electrical Workers' Union, the National Council of Women, the Māori Women's Welfare League, the New Zealand Federation of University Women, the New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), and other groups. CEPO began a lobbying campaign for equal pay within the government and private sectors from 1957 to 1960, and from 1966 to 1972.
Following the lobbying campaign by the Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity (CEPO), the Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960 introduced equal pay legislation into the public service. The Government then set up a commission of inquiry in 1971 to report on 'how best to give effect in New Zealand to the principle of equal pay for male and female employees.
Equal pay activists were instrumental in the setting up of the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women (NACEW), which was a government organisation supported by the Department of Labour (the umbrella group for private-sector unions). The women members included a school headmistress, a Department of Education representative, and members drawn from the Joint Committee of Women and Employment (JCWE) which had been formed in 1964 by the Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Federation of University Women, National Council of Women and the YWCA. The Council recommended that an independent commission of inquiry be set up by the government and that the terms of reference should focus on be how best to give effect to equal pay, rather than whether or not to introduce it. (Source: Te Ara)
Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage
The Government's commission of inquiry on equal pay led to the Equal Pay Act 1972 for the private sector. The outcome was that women workers in both the public and private sectors were entitled to the same rate as men doing the same job. This resulted in the gap between men and women’s hourly rate shrinking to 22% by 1985. (See Te Ara)
During the 1970s, women’s liberation movement groups were formed throughout NZ, including the Wellington and Auckland Women’s Liberation Fronts, Women for Equality, the Women’s Movement for Freedom, and the Working Women's Alliance. They campaigned for unions to pay their own women workers equally. Actions included lobbying politicians, holding public meetings, issuing press releases, and holding protest vigils at delays in delivering equal pay. Broadsheet, New Zealand's feminist magazine; was produced in Auckland from 1972 to 1997 by the Broadsheet Collective.
In 1972 Connie Purdue and Sue Kedgley formed the National Organisation for Women - NOW based on NOW USA which was established in 1966 by Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique. NOW sought equality for women before the law, in the workplace, education and family life. One of its early aims was to end the practice of listing ‘situations vacant’ advertisements by gender. (See: NZHistory)
The first National Women’s Liberation Conference was held in Auckland in 1972. The subsequent United Women’s Conventions provided a national forum to channel the activities of the Women's Liberation groups around New Zealand. A non-partisan group, the Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL), was formed in 1975 to encourage women’s participation in public life and help elect to public office people who would work for women’s equality. (See NZHistory). Women's groups successfully lobbied en bloc for the Human Rights Commission Act 1977, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex.
Other women's groups worked within the Parliamentary system to bring about change. The Women’s Advisory Committee (1970–75) and the Working Women’s Council, which was set up by Sonja Davies in 1975, operated within the New Zealand Labour Party. In 1977, the Working Women's Council issued the Working Women’s Charter, a bill of rights for working women. The Charter's provision were adopted by the Federation of Labour and the Labour Party as policy in 1980. Provision 3 dealt with equal pay for work of equal value. (See Te Ara) In 1984, the Working Women’s Resource Centre was set up in Auckland to promote and encourage the implementation of the Working Women's Charter.
On 10 January 1985, New Zealand ratified the International Labour Organization Conventions No. 100 (Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951) and No. 111 (Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958), and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW), 1979). Reports have been conducted by the Ministry for Women on the implementation of the CEDAW in NZ.
National Library of New Zealand
Following the passing of the Equal Pay Act 1972, feminists campaigned for pay equity – equal pay for women doing work with similar levels of responsibility, skill, effort or difficulty as higher-paid, male-dominated jobs. They also advocated the opening up of traditionally male-dominated industries such as construction, engineering and meat processing to women workers and apprentices. The Coalition for Equal Value, Equal Pay was set up by women’s groups and unions in 1986.
National Library of New Zealand
In 1988 the State Sector Act removed the special employment status of public servants who now came under the same employment law as for other New Zealanders. The classification system of all public sector jobs was replaced with public servants being employed by the head of the relevant department according to the terms and conditions agreed between the employer and the employee. Appointments continued to be made on merit, but the separate appeals system was abolished and each department to have an internal procedure to review appointments. (See Te Ara) Under Section 56 9@0 Chief Executives are required to be good employers and operate personnel policies for the fair and proper treatment of all employees, including an equal employment opportunities programme and recognition of the employment requirements of women.
In 1992, the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust (EEO) was set up by government to address some of the issues raised by the pay-equity campaign through the promotion to employers of the business benefits of equal-employment opportunities (EEO). However, as stated on the Ministry of Social Development website, "Pay equity was largely absent from the political agenda during the remainder of the 1990s... In July 2002, the government put out a Ministry of Women’s Affairs discussion document Next Steps Towards Employment Equity and established a Taskforce on Pay and Employment Equity in the Public Service, Health and Education, chaired by Diana Crossan." The EEO Trust broadened its focus in 2011 and changed its name in 2016 to Diversity Works New Zealand.
The PaEE unit was set up by the Labour Government in 2003 to provide support on establishing pay equity rates. Under its Plans of Action, all government departments, the public health sector, and the public education sector were to undertake pay and employment equity reviews (audits) and develop response plans.
Alexander Turnbull Library
In March 2009, two pay investigations were underway for the female-dominated occupation groups of social workers and special education support workers. However, the new National government discontinued these due to "current economic and fiscal pressures". lt then disestablished the Pay and Employment Equity Office in June 2009.
The Pay Equity Challenge Coalition was set up by unions, women’s organisations, academic and community groups to “challenge” the National government as to its plans for closing the gender pay gap.
In 2011, the Human Rights Commission released the Pay Equality Bill to allow employees to ask employers if they are receiving equal pay. At first, Prime Minister John Key appeared open to the Bill in an interview on TVNZ's Breakfast programme, but later the same day he not only said he did not support it, but existing laws already outlawed discrimination: "We also would have real concerns if it was divisive in the workplace or had unintended consequences". (See NZHerald article)
In 2015, the Court of Appeal ruled in a case brought by care and service workers against their employer TerraNova, that the Equal Pay Act 1972 required equal pay for work of equal value (pay equity), not simply the same pay for the same work. This led to the Government establishing the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles (the JWG) which included employer, union and government representatives. It's task was to recommend universally applicable pay equity principles for consideration by Government and its recommendations were accepted in November 2016. A new pay equity claims process was created, which was aligned with the bargaining framework in the Employment Relations Act 2000, for employees and employers to assess a pay equity claim and agree on a settlement if a pay equity issue was identified.
During May 2017, Green MP Jan Logie's Equal Pay Amendment bill, which would require all workplaces to measure and disclose the pay gap between men and women employees, was defeated 60 votes to 59 (National, Act and United Future were opposed, and Labour, the Greens, NZ First and the Māori Party were in favour). Following proposals from the Joint Working Group (JWG), the Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 31 July 2017, but was withdrawn in November 2017 following the formation of a new coalition government.
A new working group of State sector agency and union representatives was formed by the SSC, PSA and NZCTU. The Gender Pay Principles Working Group began meeting in 2017 with the purpose of establishing a set of principles to be used by State sector agencies to end workplace inequalities and address issues that contribute to gender pay gaps in the State sector. The Working Group reported back on 20 April 2018 and recommended the adoption of the five core Gender Pay Principles to the State Services Commissioner. To address diversity and inclusion practices across the Public Service, the steering group Papa Pounamu was also established in 2017 by eleven Chief Executives. A sub-group of Papa Pounamu - Pou Mātāwaka - focused on the drivers of ethnic pay gaps.
The Joint Working Group (JWG) of employer, union and government representatives was reconvened in 2018 to provide further recommendations to Ministers. The Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill was reintroduced to Parliament on 22 February 2018 but was rejected on its first reading (4 April 2018). The JWG's recommendations were used to develop a new Equal Pay Amendment Bill which was introduced into Parliament on 19 September 2018, and was passed on its third reading on 22 July 2020.
The Equal Pay Amendment Act 2020 introduced a process for hearing claims. As described by the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment (MBIE), "It allows workers to make a pay equity claim using a process aligned with New Zealand’s existing bargaining framework. By making court action a last resort, the approach lowers the bar for workers initiating a pay equity claim, and uses a collaborative process more familiar to unions and businesses. Under the Act, employers, workers and unions negotiate in good faith, with access to mediation and dispute resolution services available if they are unable to agree." See Factsheet; A just and practical pay equity framework.
The introduction of equal pay and anti-discrimination legislation has improved women’s pay rates and access to jobs. However, female-dominated occupations tend to be lower paid than male-dominated occupations. History shows that women are more likely to be in a narrower range of occupations (occupational segregation) and at the bottom or middle of an organisation (vertical segregation). When women take career breaks or work part-time it can affect their careers in terms of accumulating work experience and accessing professional development opportunities. Also, fewer higher-level positions are available on a part-time basis. As more women joined the workforce, women’s groups and unions focused on pay parity, childcare, flexible work hours and part-time work, and training for mothers re-entering the workforce.
Beginning in the 19th Century, the main occupations for women included domestic servants, seamstresses, factory workers (food and clothing), shop assistants, teachers, nurses or clerical office work. With the introduction of apprenticeship schemes, women apprentices remained very rare, except in traditionally female trades such as women’s hairdressing. The historic undervaluing of work typically done by women is tracked by the following cartoons.
19th Century: Assisted immigrants
During the 19th Century, subsidised or free passages were offered to single women settlers prepared to work as domestic servants. About 12,000 female assisted immigrants arrived in the 1850s and 1860s when provincial governments organised immigration. Around 20,000 arrived under the central government’s scheme in the 1870s. Working conditions were often harsh: a 16-hour day, 6½ days a week, for low wages. Servants earned 10–12 shillings a week on average, plus full board. At the top of the scale, a female cook could earn 20 shillings a week – about the same as a farm labourer, but less than many shop assistants. (See Te Ara)
About half of the female workforce was in domestic service in 1880, but only about one-third was in 1900. Many left service to marry and others left for shop, hotel, office or factory jobs with better pay and free evenings and weekends. The Dunedin Tailoresses’ Union was the first women’s union, formed in 1889, which fought for shorter working hours, increased wages and the appointment of female factory inspectors by the Department of Labour.
1900s: Domestic Workers' Union
In 1906, at a meeting in Wellington, Marianne Tasker and supporters established a domestic workers’ union to improve pay and conditions under the Liberal government’s Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act (1894). Their call to introduce a 68-hour working week led to much debate and a counter-move by employers to form a 'Committee of Employers of Domestic Employees', as reported by Te Ara. It was not until the First Labour Government's 1936 amendment the 40-hour week and compulsory unionism were introduced.
Impact of Great Depression (1929 - 30s) on domestic service
During the 1930s Great Depression, many women and men were out of work. Although women were required to pay unemployment tax from 1931, they were not entitled to unemployment benefits and received almost no government support. Relief committees were set up, but sometimes they pressured women to take jobs as servants, for little or even no pay. (See Te Ara).
Impact of World War II on domestic service
During the Second World War "women were ‘manpowered’ into essential work during the war – and domestic service was not in that category." (Te Ara). As a consequence, whereas in 1936 there were 32,000 domestic servants; nine years later, at the end of the War, there were only 9,000.
During the 19th Century, European settlers brought with them the apprenticeship scheme, whereby young workers, mainly male, worked in trades such as building, printing or saddle-making. Under the Master and Apprentice Act 1865, an employer was expected to provide ‘sufficient and suitable’ food, clothing and bedding, and to ensure that the apprentice attended church. However, there were concerns that children as young as 12 years were being exploited as unskilled labour and not being paid whilst they learnt their trade; then being fired to avoid paying them the wage of a skilled worker. (See Te Ara article on Apprenticeships and trade training.)
The Apprenticeship Act 1923 was introduced for males followed by women in 1926 when the first female hairdressing apprenticeships were recognised. Voluntary local committees set standards - wages, hours and conditions, and period of apprenticeship which usually lasted three to five years, and included some training at technical schools (polytechnics) such as electrical engineering and the motor industry.
The outbreak of the Second World War and the demand for military equipment, saw women entering the manufacturing workforce in large numbers. As employers and the government assumed that women would leave those jobs at the end of the war, they were mostly restricted to simple tasks and gained very little trade training.
The Apprenticeship Act 1948 introduced national apprenticeship committees made up of industry and union representatives, with examinations set by the Trades Certification Board. Apprentices’ wages were set at a fixed proportion of a tradesman’s hourly rate, with each 1,000 hours equalling six months’ training. Whereas in the 1950s, 30% of all male school leavers were expected to enter a skilled trade by completing an apprenticeship, women apprentices remained very rare, except in traditionally female trades such as women’s hairdressing.
The Apprenticeship Act 1983 revised the outdated apprenticeship system and extended it to a wider range of people, including more women trainees. However, during the 1980s and 1990s the manufacturing sector shrank and unemployment rose sharply. Large public institutions which had traditionally trained hundreds of young people each year, became profit-oriented state-owned enterprises, such as the Post Office, New Zealand Railways and the Government Printing Office.
The Industry Training Act 1992 set up industry training organisations (ITOs) to take over apprenticeship training. The traditional apprenticeship contract was replaced with a training agreement between the trainee, the employer and the ITO. Traineeships became offered in new areas such as tourism and travel, social services, and sports, fitness and recreation. Training standards were assessed on the basis of competency instead of time served. Trade and advanced trade certificates were replaced by unit standard-based national certificates, which formed part of the National Qualifications Framework. The strategic leadership role of ITOs was recognised by a change to the Industry Training Act in 2002.
Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage
The Modern Apprenticeships scheme, which began in 2002, aimed to combine ITO training with traditional workplace-based apprenticeships, such as building and plumbing, as well as the public sector, retail, forestry and road transport. In the 2000s, women were still not well represented in workplace-based training, except for traditionally female occupations such as hairdressing.
From 1877 primary school teachers were paid according to their grading, which was determined by the roll size (per capita) of their school. Wide variations in staffing levels and teachers’ pay and conditions between education board regions prompted a royal commission in 1901. A national system of pay and staffing for primary schools was set up and the Education Department administered this from 1902. However, capitation continued to be used to fund secondary schools until 1920, when national pay scales were introduced for secondary teachers.
National Library of New Zealand
In 1914 a national system of appointment and grading of teachers was adopted, and the Department took over the inspection of schools. That same year, the New Zealand Women Teachers’ Association was formed to advocate for equal pay, promotion of women to higher positions and inclusion of women in the team of school inspectors. When the Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960 was introduced, the Women Teachers’ Association was the first to take advantage of it and by 1962 women had the same opportunities and pay as men (See Te Ara). After the 1989 reforms to decentralise the governance of primary and secondary schools, the Ministry of Education provided school boards of trustees with operational, salary and property funding.
By the 1990s the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) – the representative organisation for primary school teachers set up in 1883 – had a majority of women members. The New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) has represented teachers in secondary, area and intermediate schools for the past 60 years. By 2011 women teachers outnumbered men in both primary (82%) and secondary schools (58%).
The strive for pay parity between kindergarten / preschool, primary and secondary school teachers; and for school support staff has continued until this day, as illustrated by the following cartoonists. Also see DigitalNZ story: Teachers take strike action.
Alexander Turnbull Library
The Nurses’ Association started in 1909, but it was not regarded as a union – "it argued that nurses should be dedicated to their work, and opposed strikes and industrial action" (See Te Ara). The New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO) was formed in 1993, when the Nurses’ Association and the private-sector Nurses’ Union (formed in 1973) amalgamated. From 1996 it included medical radiologists, technologists, scientific officers, pharmacists and dietitians. The NZNO continued to have a majority of women members – 94% in 2009.
A court case won a significant victory for care and support workers in the aged and disability residential care and home and community support services. In 2013, Kristine Bartlett took her employer TerraNova to the Employment Court arguing that her industry paid her poorly as the workers were overwhelmingly women. The Court of Appeal ruled in 2015 that they could use the Equal Pay Act 1972 to argue for equal work for equal value. On 18 April 2017, a $2.048 billion settlement offer was made to 55,000 care and support workers for significant pay increases to be introduced over five years. (See NZ Law Society)
Alexander Turnbull Library
New Zealand was the first country to establish a national minimum wage in 1894. Under the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act, registered unions had the exclusive right to represent all their members in industrial disputes with employers. The Court of Arbitration had the power to set wages and its decisions gradually established a nationwide system of ‘awards’, setting minimum wages and working conditions for particular groups of workers. The female minimum wage, for example, was 60% of the male minimum from 1945, increasing to 65% from 1949.
From 1 April 1946, there were separate minimum wage rates for men and women aged 21 years and over, excluding some general classes such as apprentices. For example, in the mid-1950s, the most a man could earn in the insurance industry was £727 per year; the most a woman could earn was £450. This age was reduced to 20 years in 1970. One minimum wage for all adults was introduced on 15 March 1977. Current minimum wage law is described in the Minimum Wage Act 1983.
Currently, there are three types of minimum wages for men and women - Adult, Starting-Out (previously Youth Rates) and Training (see details on the Employment New Zealand website). Figures from Statistics New Zealand showed record numbers of Kiwis migrating to Australia in 2012, which the NZ Council of Trade Unions attributed to economic difficulties and wages on average 20% higher than in NZ. At that time the Government was also planning to re-introduce a a youth pay rate which will see 16-to-19-year-olds making a minimum $10.80 per hour, or 80 percent of the adult minimum wage, which cartoonists captured.
Minimum wage comparisons with the salaries received by politicians and CEOs have continued to be the subject of much fodder by cartoonists.
In the NZ Herald's rankings of chief executive’s pay for all the companies on the NZX50 in August 2017, none of those companies listed any woman. Later that same year, a Westpac - Deloitte survey of 500 businesses found that only 29% of NZ's business leaders were women.
By the 2000s, as stated by Te Ara, "Occupational segregation had broken down to some extent. Significant numbers of women were working as lawyers, doctors and in senior positions in the public service. But many working women continued to work as nurses, teachers, shop assistants, in light manufacturing and as clerical workers." Since 2017, listed companies on the NZ Stock Exchange (NZX) main board have been required to give a breakdown of gender diversity in their annual reports. Although some women have broken through the glass ceiling, there is a still a way to go. A Radio New Zealand interview (2017), for example, noted that only around a quarter of partners at the country's 11 biggest law firms are women, despite female graduates outnumbering men since the 1990s.
Alexander Turnbull Library
By 2019, women made up almost half the paid workforce (48% of the total), according to Statistics NZ. In July 2018, the Ministers of the State Services and the Ministry for Women had jointly announced the following action plan: "Eliminating the Public Service gender pay gap 2018-2020 action plan". The published gender pay gaps for agencies in the public service can be viewed on the Ministry for Women's website. Tools to help measure the gender pay gaps and gender bias in recruitment and remuneration are available on the Public Service Commission (PSC) website. These tools were jointly developed by the Ministry for Women, PSC, and Statistics NZ for use in the public sector which the private sector could also use and adapt. As stated by the then Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter, the expectation is that, "The public and private sector can each learn from each other to improve workplaces for women." (Beehive.govt.nz: Release - 29 November 2019)
For more information about the gender pay gap, visit: