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Women are overrepresented in minimum wage jobs despite holding increasing numbers of qualifications, a government report to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has revealed.
The report stated, “women are gaining qualifications at a greater rate than men but their skills are not being translated into greater career opportunities.”
Statistics found that as of 2014, women over 25 made up 66.6 per cent of minimum wage earners, with higher numbers of Māori and Pacific women earning less than the minimum wage than Pakeha. It found that 13 per cent of Pacific women earned under the minimum wage compared to 9.4 per cent of Māori women, 9 per cent of Asian women, and 6.4 per cent of European women.
The report states that Māori women, Pacific women, young mothers, and former prisoners are vulnerable to low wage employment and poorer outcomes for themselves and their families.
New Zealand’s workforce is divided by gender. 47 per cent of women work in occupations that are at least 70 per cent female-dominated. Similarly, over half of men work in occupations that are at least 70 per cent male-dominated. The heavily women-dominated fields of work are being paid less than male-dominated fields.
The government suggests the way to improve pay for women is to push them into male-dominated fields rather than increasing wages in female industries.
“The government is working to encourage women and girls to train and work in occupations where high growth is projected and where women are currently underrepresented, in particular STEM and ICT industries, and construction and trades,” the report says.
Beyond pushing women into other industries, the report suggests closing the gap between men and women’s employment chances through more flexible work hours and increased paid parental leave.
However some are skeptical that the government’s plans to push women into other industries will change anything. Massey University management expert Dr Suze Wilson believes it is a structural issue.
“Division of labour still sees women doing the majority of unpaid domestic work, and in paid employment you’ve got gender division hierarchically across industries. The normal way that work is organised is a way that’s set up for men, not for women.”
The full report from New Zealand to CEDAW was the eighth report of its kind and covered 2012 to 2016.