Sunday, 21 February 2010

The gender pay gap and the Minister of Women's Affairs

Today in Parliament the Minister of Women's Affairs, National's Pansy Wong, claimed that the pay gap was now 11.3%, in response to questioning from Green MP Catherine Delahunty:
Hon PANSY WONG: ...For 9 long years under the previous Labour Government, the 12 percent pay gap increased to 12.8 percent for the year ended June 2008. For the year ended June 2009, the pay gap had gone down to 11.3 percent. The National Government is working for women.

...Catherine Delahunty: It has gone up to 13 percent. I seek leave to table the Red Bag Day bag, with no money in it for women; my male colleagues are welcome to donate.

...Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether the Minister, when she referred to the statistics showing that the pay gap had decreased, was quoting from an official document—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Oh, I beg the member’s pardon.

Charles Chauvel: —and if so, whether she might table that document under the Standing Orders.

Mr SPEAKER: I beg the member’s pardon. Could the Hon Pansy Wong please clarify whether she was quoting from an official document.

Hon PANSY WONG: I was thinking I would seek your leave to table those statistics, Mr Speaker, but I did not think that you would allow it, because they came from the annual New Zealand Income Survey, prepared by Statistics New Zealand...
Labour's Sue Moroney pursued this matter further when she asked her own questions about gender equity issues later in the session, attempting to table several documents that record the gender pay gap as bigger than Wong claimed in her answer, but they were all objected to. These included "a statistical bulletin [from the Parliamentary Library], salary and wage rates, showing that in 2008 the male-female wage gap was 13.8 percent, and in 2009, it was 14.8 percent."

The NZ Income Survey* that Wong refers to can be found on the Statistics NZ website. Here's a key quote from the survey report:
Comparing female earnings with male earnings, the ratio of median hourly earnings in the June 2009 quarter was 88.7 percent, an increase from the June 2008 quarter ratio of 87.2 percent.
And that seems to be where Wong has got her 11.3% from. Fair enough. Even if the period she is crowing about was almost half under the previous Government, and not her National party, and even if by the end of the June 2009 quarter any new policies National had put in place on pay equity would not have had much effect. Oh but wait they didn't put any new policies on pay equity into effect, they just abolished efforts the last Government had made. Nevermind all that.

So Wong is safe, for now, with her statement, because she has compared apples with apples, even if it is not an apple her Government grew. It shall be interesting to see in October whether the NZ Income Survey ending June 2010 backs her up.

But in the meantime, Frog does have some more recent figures than June 2009, as follows:

Let’s look at the December 2009 figures from the Household Labour Force Survey and compare them with December 2008 – that covers the first full year of the National-led government, which is a far more relevant period:

Source: Statistics NZ Household Labour Force Survey

Source: Statistics NZ Household Labour Force Survey

The gender pay gap has actually increased from 12.45% to 12.97% - some very bad news for the Minister, I would suggest.

We could quibble about which measurement to take for weeks on end. And no doubt Wong would like that, because it lets her off the hook for being the Minister of Women's Affairs who abolished the Pay Equity Investigation Unit, who has not implemented or indeed proposed any policy around addressing the gender pay gap, and who revells in not taking the issue seriously. Shame on her, by whichever measure you choose to use.

* Of course it's not only who women who suffer a pay gap. While the median hourly earnings for Europeans was $20.00, for Pacific Islanders it was $16.50, and for Maori it was $17.50, in the same survey.

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