Pay gap disappearing, say experts

By James Fuller


Bay of Plenty employment experts say ability is more important than gender as a national survey suggests the pay gap between men and women is fast disappearing.

The recently released New Zealand Income Survey (NZIS) states the gender pay gap has decreased from 9.6 per cent to 9.3 per cent in the last financial year. The disparity is the lowest since the NZIS began in 1997.

Phil Van Syp, managing director of 1st Call Recruitment in Tauranga, said this all-time low gender pay gap mirrored his own experience.

"We get asked to find the best person possible. It's never about whether it's a man or a woman. I couldn't say, in my experience, that there's anything to suggest there is a gap of any real sort.

"We've recruited men and women for management positions and, especially in Tauranga, it's the person best suited for the position rather than the gender."

Mr Van Syp said the careers playing field had levelled and evidence could be found in the numbers of men taking parental leave instead of their wives. He said this was often due to a combination of women having better earnings potential and men being happy to take on the chief caregiver role.

"That mentality of 'guys should go to work and women should look after the kids' is definitely shifting. If the wives have got good careers and don't want to take time out, which would create gaps in those careers, and the men are happy to stay at home why not?

"And if the woman is earning more then it makes financial sense. It's a real hit for a woman to take a year or two out of their career and then try and get back in. Whereas their colleagues have stayed at work and climbed the ladder, they come back and have to start from a few steps down."

Mr Van Syp, whose recruitment agency has offices in Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland, said: "In the last couple of months we've spoken to guys who are wanting to return back to the workforce after taking the stay-at-home option rather than their wives."

The news of a decreasing salary gap between the sexes was welcomed by Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Max Mason.

"It's good news that the gender pay gap is narrowing. It's a sign that employers are hiring the best person for the job rather than other factors. Our economy is best served by managers and business owners who focus on recruiting and rewarding staff who are the most productive. The more that happens, the better it is for business, and the economy as a whole.<inline type="poll" id="6204" align="outside"/>

"It may also be an indication that in order to retain the best employees, managers are engaging in more flexible work practices. In times of economic constraint and/or transformation, it's the businesses that are prepared to embrace change and new ways of doing things that are most likely to thrive."

Mary Hill, an Associate at Tauranga-based law firm Cooney Lees Morgan, said she believed employee remuneration was based on ability and nothing else.

"In my experience people get paid what they are worth and gender is irrelevant," she said.

Following the initial release Women's Affairs Minister Jo Goodhew said tightening pay differentials were good for the country and the economy.

"The economic independence of women is imperative for a healthy economy and a number of recent economic indicators are showing positive signs in spite of continuing global uncertainty.

"Building on these positive signs, we need to ensure women at all stages of their working lives have good choices that will strengthen their ability to be economically independent.

"Careers advisers, human resource professionals, and others should help women to be well-informed about their options. Training and education are significant investments for anyone, and pay can vary hugely between occupations."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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