Female public servants in New Zealand ‘working for free’ until July, due to pay gap

By on 12/05/2016 | Updated on 04/02/2022
Erin Polaczuk, national secretary of the Public Service Association addressed an event hosted by politicians in New Zealand’s parliament

Women in New Zealand’s public service have this week started to work effectively for free until the end of June due to the 14% wage gap, the country’s public sector union has claimed.

Erin Polaczuk, national secretary of the Public Service Association – New Zealand’s largest union representing nearly 62,000 workers in central government, state-owned enterprises, local councils, health boards and community groups, called for action to address the pay gap.

Addressing an event hosted by politicians in New Zealand’s parliament on Tuesday, which marked ‘Working For Free Day’, she said: “The public service is 70 per cent female, which means every day women are making this country a great place to live for all New Zealanders.

“But the average woman in the public sector takes home 14 per cent less than the average man – which means less to spend on her family, to save for retirement or put back into the economy”.

Presenting a specially iced cake which highlighted the size of the 14% slice, Polaczuk added: “The Public Service Association has been campaigning for equal pay for 102 years.

“Let’s make sure today’s not just about cake – we need action.”

Worth 100% cake

Labour MP Sue Moroney, who hosted the event, with MPs from Labour, New Zealand First, the Maori Party and the Greens also attending, told the audience there was “no excuse” for not tackling the equal pay issue.

An annual breakdown of gender pay gaps across New Zealand’s government agencies going back to 2008 was released earlier this year.

It showed that the overall gender pay gap in the public service had dropped one percentage point in seven years, from 15% to 14%. However, adjusted for age, seniority and experience, the pay gap dropped to 5.3%.

The report also showed that some organisations had made headway in reducing pay inequality: The Treasury reduced its gap from 32% to 18%, while the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet dropped from a 28% gap in 2008 to 7% in 2015.

Government chief talent officer Andrew Hampton said at the time that improving diversity in the public sector was an “important focus” for the State Services Commission, but would take time.

Hampton, who has since moved on to lead the Government Communications Security Bureau, said the public sector currently had the highest ever proportion of female chief executives, at 40%, while the proportion of women in senior leadership roles had increased from 39.6% in 2011 to 44.2% in 2015.


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See also:

Research tracks gender equality among G20 officials

Australia’s top civil servant calls for ideas to increase gender diversity

Report: Gender Equality among Civil Service Leaders

Report shows gender pay gap up among New Zealand’s senior government leaders

Andrew Hampton, chief talent officer, New Zealand government: exclusive interview

White House Hires First Transgender Staff Member

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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