Goldman Sachs has identified women as a "hidden labour pool" that could boost economic output by 10 per cent and solve an expected labour shortage as Christchurch is rebuilt.

The report, Closing the Gender Gap - Plenty of Potential Economic Upside, argues that New Zealand is only three-quarters of the way to unlocking the hidden value of its female workforce.

"Our estimates show that closing the gap in male and female employment rates in New Zealand would boost the level of gross domestic product by 10 per cent," said Goldman economist Philip Borkin.

The rebuilding of Christchurch would stretch available resources and labour shortages were likely, Borkin said.


A major construction company told Goldman Sachs that the pool of 77,000 tradespeople nationwide needed to more than double to rebuild Christchurch. A labour shortage could increase inflation and force the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates.

"We see no reason why more females could not be employed in the construction sector and play a role in the rebuilding of Canterbury," the report said.

Goldman Sachs canvassed the idea of incentives and also said that some allowances needed to be made so that labour could train and be more mobile. Borkin said that although New Zealand had a better track record than many countries in respect of human rights and gender equality, there was room for improvement.

"We believe a proactive approach by Government will help to close some of these disparities and will come with considerable economic benefits."

The report argues for incentives for females with high levels of education to seek careers outside the traditional areas of education, health and support services.

It also argues for the broadening of the modern apprenticeship scheme and measures to address the issues of childcare cost and high marginal tax rates for some females on welfare.

On the issue of lower pay for women, the report says that "the recent talk of making employees pay levels available to other colleagues is one way we feel would start to bring this issue to the fore".

Encouraging firms to introduce flexible work arrangements for staff was also suggested.