New Zealand Public Service gender pay gap falls to lowest on record

By on 16/11/2023 | Updated on 16/11/2023
A photo of male and female figures sitting on piles of piles of coins to represent the gender pay gap
Photo: Shutterstock

The New Zealand Public Service gender pay gap has fallen to 7.1%, the lowest on record, according to the Public Service Commission.

The figure, published as part of the government’s latest workforce data, represents a 0.6 percentage point decline in the last year and a 5.1 point decline since the public service launched its gender pay gap action plan in 2018.

New Zealand’s national gender pay gap is 8.6%. It dropped by one percentage point over the same period.  

Duane Leo, national secretary for the Public Service Association (PSA) trade union, said the latest figure “shows how the public service can lead by example in closing pay gaps and promoting diversity”.  

Though not direct comparisons as New Zealand’s figures were collected more recently, the gender pay gap in the Australian Public Service was lower in 2022, at 5.2%, as was the pay gap in the US federal government’s civilian executive branch, at 5.9% in 2021. The UK civil service pay gap, however, is higher, having risen to 11.3% in 2022, an increase of more than a third on the previous year.

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The 2018 Public Service Gender Pay Gap Action Plan outlined a set of actions to help close gender, Māori, Pacific, and ethnic pay gaps in the public service.

The 2023 data shows that the Māori pay gap fell 1.1 percentage points to 5.4%, and the Pacific pay gap fell by 1.1 points to 16.6% – both are the lowest such figures on record. The Asian pay gap increased 0.6 points to 13.0%.

The government said that Asian representation in the public service “has been growing strongly in recent years and this means an increasing number, and proportion, of Asian employees are new recruits than in the past. This is likely to be counteracting improvements in pay gaps”.  

The government acknowledged that though it was “starting to see a wider impact on ethnic pay gaps”, there was “more work to be done”.

Read more: Australia releases gender responsive budgeting guidance for federal departments

NZ public service reaches gender parity in top roles

New Zealand is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to representation of women in the highest ranks of its national public service. Data collected for Global Government Forum’s last Women Leaders Index in 2022 showed that women accounted for 53.5% of top positions, significantly higher than the OECD country mean of 36.2%.

The Index also showed that in 2022, women accounted for 40% of cabinet ministers in New Zealand and for 48.3% of lower-house elected politicians – the latter figure puts it in the number one spot in the ranking of OECD countries.

It was also one of only three OECD countries, along with France and Norway, to be within 10 percentage points of reaching gender parity on the boards of publicly-listed private companies.

Read more: Progress being made on gender equality in the public sector but obstacles remain, Global Government Forum survey finds

In a case study for our 2020 Women Leaders Index, New Zealand’s state services commissioner Peter Hughes discussed plans to reduce the gender pay gap, and how a joined-up system-wide approach and strong collaboration between agencies, employees and unions had driven success. You can read the interview here.

In an episode of our Leading Questions podcast, former state services commissioner Iain Rennie spoke about women’s tendency to underestimate their potential as leaders, and said that while the public service had achieved gender parity at executive level, there was “unfinished business” around representation of the ethnicities that make up New Zealand.

Read more: Turmoil ahead: will the pendulum swing again to change New Zealand’s public sector?

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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