Pay equity questions for government after UN report

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Fresh debate over the issue of gender pay equity has erupted after a recent United Nations report was critical of the lack of New Zealand government initiatives regarding women’s employment rights.

The report, which is viewed as a ‘report card’ of the country’s performance under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), noted that New Zealand needed to make progress on pay inequality and pay equity among a number of other areas.

Although the report covered a range of women’s issues from violence to legal aid, employment rights were a big focus of the Committee’s comments, EEO Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor said. “It noted ‘with concern’ the high level of unemployment, especially among young women and within ethnic minority groups. It also noted the persistence of occupational segregation for women.”

“This is one of the most comprehensive, independent reports on the status of women’s rights in New Zealand and its recommendations make it clear that we must act quickly if we want to continue to be a world leader in women’s equality,” she said. “The Committee recognised that New Zealand is on the cusp and identified areas of regression in women’s rights as well as progress.”

The government could respond to the report’s concerns by modernising the Equal Pay Act and installing the right for workers and unions to request information on gender pay levels in their workplace, Jan Logie from the Green Party suggested.

However, the report commended the government for having the fundamentals for the continuing advancement of women in place, said Women’s Affairs Minister Jo Goodhew. “For example, the Committee has noted that women now comprise the majority of tertiary student and that the gender gap for median hourly earnings has reduced.”


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