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Source: Public Service Association (PSA)

The collective efforts of working women are reducing the gender pay gap, but there is a long way to go yet; particularly for Māori, Pasefika and Asian women.

As Public Service Association members mark International Women’s Day the union says there is much to celebrate.

“Progress was not just handed down from above, working people are still campaigning to make it happen. The PSA has pushed through pay equity claims for mostly female professions like DHB admin workers, Oranga Tamariki social workers, and home care & support workers,” says PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies.

“The current Labour government and the Public Service Commission have made clear commitments to support pay equity, and stronger equal pay legislation was implemented last year. It’s great the road ahead has fewer obstacles, but when Pasefika women earn more than 25% less than Pākehā men we clearly still have a long way to go.”

Successful pay equity claims have led to pay boosts of 30% or higher for some workers, which illustrates how far they had fallen behind.

New Zealand workplaces need more transparency about how much staff are paid, and why. This is important for gender equality, because women are more likely to take time off or request flexible working arrangements to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities.

“The PSA represents about 55,000 working women, more than 70% of our overall membership. For the first time in our history both National Secretaries are women, and thousands of staunch woman delegates form the backbone of our union in workplaces across Aotearoa,” says Ms Davies.

“To achieve equality, it’s not enough to have more women in leadership positions. We need to eliminate bias and discrimination in pay and work cultures everywhere, and guarantee improved conditions, respect and dignity for all.”

Further statements from PSA Women’s Network leaders

Nia Bartley, health worker

“Worldwide and from our beautiful Aotearoa, many strong and inspirational women from our past to the present, representing various walks of life and backgrounds chose to challenge and improve the societal status quo of women.

These leaders changed the political, economic and cultural spheres by getting involved and speaking up.

‘Let’s all choose to challenge’ is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day. It is a day for us to celebrate women who came before us, who led the way and championed our rights. A day for us to celebrate women’s importance, to support and encourage our future leaders. To continue the drive for inclusiveness, fair and equal treatment, empowerment and – most importantly – ensuring our voices are heard. Women must always be seated at the decision making table.

Be safe, be kind, be brave and let’s all challenge to make a difference. Kia kaha!”

Reremoana Sinclair, local government worker

“As International Women’s Day approached, I reflected on the progress women have made through our united efforts in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Wāhine and tauiwi pakeha women built solidarity and worked together to make the ‘impossible’ possible. This illustrates the mana and strength we hold when we come together.

Māori women supported the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and sought the right to vote for members of the New Zealand House of Representatives. They also sought the right to vote and stand as members of the Māori parliament, Te Kotahitanga.

They achieved these goals. This gives me great hope for further progress in the future. If two cultures can unite and work together to achieve common goals, just think what is possible with the diversity and power of our PSA Women’s Network.

The future is bright if we stick together. Happy International Women’s Day!”

Nancy McShane, health worker

“As a Cantabrian, I have always been hugely inspired by the work of Kate Sheppard and other New Zealand suffragists, who laboured with tireless conviction, determination and hope to improve the lives of women and children in this country.

I feel immensely grateful for the rights and freedoms I enjoy today because of their efforts, and grateful to have had so many opportunities to further their legacy through my work as a union woman.

As we pause to commemorate International Women’s Day, let’s reflect on the achievements of women who came before us. Let’s re-commit ourselves to advancing the many causes for which they sacrificed so much.”

Background info

The labour movement has celebrated this occasion for over a century, ever since socialists and union activists organised the first International Working Women’s Day in New York City, 1909.

The PSA currently has multiple claims in progress for groups like library assistants, NGO social workers, and allied and technical health workers. The union Rūnanga has lodged a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal as part of its Mana Wahine inquiry.

After the PSA filed a claim against the State Services Commissioner, the public service committed to a set of Gender Pay Principles. These provide a framework for measuring progress, but too many women still endure low pay and slower career progression than their male colleagues.

Pasefika women are the worst paid employees in the public service, and in 2020 made on average $68,200 while Pākehā men made an average of $94,700. Māori and Asian women made $76,300 and $73,100 respectively.

It should be noted these average figures are lifted by a minority of high earners. Most PSA members, especially in predominantly female professions, are paid less.

The PSA conducted a pay survey of its members in 2019, with over 27,000 participants. The survey results indicated an average actual salary of $62,214.

Public service gender pay gap data for 2020 can be found here: