Some data on gender wage gaps

Incomes by the week

These are median weekly earnings from wages and salaries over time for people who are employed.* Note they are only earnings from salary and wages, i.e., working for families or any other form of income is excluded.

Median weekly earnings from salary or wages for people who are employed

Year Men Women Women/Men
1998 614 400 65%
1999 617 412 67%
2000 633 420 66%
2001 644 440 68%
2002 662 440 66%
2003 680 466 69%
2004 711 483 68%
2005 760 503 66%
2006 780 540 69%
2007 810 570 70%
2008 860 584 68%
2009 863 620 72%
2010 893 650 73%
2011 920 663 72%

As you can see, median weekly earnings for women have increased over the course of the 2000s from just under two-thirds of men, to a bit under three-quarters.

Paid by the hour

Median weekly earnings is a combination of how much you get paid, and how many hours you work. Both depend on what is sorted out between employers and employees, and likely reflect many things (like age, occupation, industry, qualifications, location, business success, ability to negotiate, ability to move location, travel costs etc etc), as well as any gender discrimination.

Stripping out the hours worked effect (and ignoring all the other stuff that might influence pay rates other than gender), we can see what could be a gender wage gap in median hourly earnings figures.

Median hourly earnings for wage/salary earners

Year Men Women Women/Men
1998 14.42 12.04 83%
1999 14.5 12.25 84%
2000 14.58 12.5 86%
2001 15 13.04 87%
2002 15.34 13.45 88%
2003 15.76 13.8 88%
2004 16.49 14.4 87%
2005 17.48 15 86%
2006 18.05 15.8 88%
2007 19 16.76 88%
2008 20 17.4 87%
2009 20.53 18.22 89%
2010 21.14 19 90%
2011 21.58 19.48 90%

As you can see from the above, and as Stats NZ noted in the June 2011 survey, at 90%, the ratio of women’s to men’s median hourly earnings is the highest seen since the NZ Income survey began in 1997, i.e., that the gender pay gap now is as small as it has ever been.

The hourly wage gap is even smaller for those in full-time employment – Stats NZ says that as at June 2011 women earned 96% of what men earn by that definition, and was again the smallest that gap has been since the survey began.

Unemployment and employment

Stepping beyond incomes, men are more likely to be in or looking for paid employment than women (no comments about sick days please). For men, around three in four are in or looking for work**. For women, the number is a bit over 60%. Overall, just over two thirds of people of working age (defined as 15-64 by the boffins at Stats NZ) are in or looking for paid work.

Women are a bit more likely to be unemployed (both available for and looking for work, but not actually employed) than men. The latest unemployment rates for June 2011 are 6.2% for men and 6.5% of women, versus an overall work-force number of 6.4%.

What you should do

One of the influences often referred to in debates on the gender wage gap is the fact that men and women work in different fields, which pay different amounts without that necessarily being because of gender. We can get a look at this by comparing men’s and women’s employment and wages in different industries.

The median hourly earnings for women across all industries is $19.48 for June 2011, and there were 906k women in total employed. The “best three” industries for women – those that pay the most – are (with hourly rates, and then total employment of women in brackets):

  • Financial and Insurance services ($25.89, 39k)
  • Public administration and safety ($25.03, 59k)
  • Education and training ($22.80, 146k)

and the worst three industries for women based on this simple measure are:

  • Art, Recreation and Other Services ($16.87, 49k)
  • Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing ($16.00, 26k)
  • Retail trade and accommodation ($14.50, 166k)

(I am ignoring the very small and poorly paying “not specified” category in these lists).

Note in particular retail trade and accommodation. This industry employs a lot of women (166k is 18% of all employed women), and offers low wages, which means that greater female retail employment will increase the gender wage gap (even though the wage gap in retail itself is less than the wage gap across all industries). By contrast, the health industry is a slightly bigger employer of women (174k is 19% of the total) and pays above average wages at $20.20 – although still below the male average of $21.48 an hour.

*All income stats from Stats NZ’s marvellous table builder – All are the latest available figures for the longest available time, but they are not all completely up to date.

** The employment/unemployment stats are from the latest Household Labour Force Survey at