1492502459556 - One good step to pay equality but hundreds still to go

One good step to pay equality but hundreds still to go

OPINION: When it comes to equal pay, it is too early to celebrate just yet.

Aged-care workers are set to get a pay rise thanks to a settlement with the Government. More than 55,000 will receive a minimum pay rise of $4 an hour.

But while that is a tick in the box for that industry, there are still a number of female-dominated professions where people are being paid a lot less than they are worth.

Here is a look at some of the worst offenders. Keep in mind that the average hourly wage in New Zealand is just under $30, which works out to about $62,000 a year.


* Historic pay increase for workers in female dominated industry * Government in mediation with midwives over gender pay discrimination


These people literally hold life and death in their hands. They work the most unpredictable hours imaginable, holding hands, legs, umbilicals cords and writhing human bodies. They monitor a woman’s pregnancy and receive middle-of-the-night texts like “can I eat McDonalds soft serve ice cream or is that bad”. They sometimes single-handedly coach women through one of the most transformative experiences of their lives – then visit regularly for six weeks after to make sure that everyone is surviving the haze of new motherhood. And for all that, self-employed midwives earn about $60,000 before tax, after their expenses are paid. The Government is in mediation with midwives over their pay. 


After three or four years at university, teachers start the hard slog in the classroom trying to bring a disparate bunch of kids into line to learn. They have to cater for wildly varying ability and interest levels and act as pseudo-social workers if there are problems outside the classroom affecting their students. They run sports teams, plan lessons and deal with pushy parents.  But starting teachers earn just $48,000. They can earn up to $148,000 a year if they progress to become principals but women are under-represented in those ranks. More than 10 per cent of male teachers are principals, but just 3 per cent of women.


Nurses do the grunt work of healthcare. They patch us up, stitch us up, cheer us up and mop us up. But many of them get all the pay rises they are ever going to, in their first five years of work. New graduates earn about $50,000 and get a pay rise each year until they earn about $66,000. Then they can only earn more if they move to a management or education role. Health care assistants are in an even more dire position, earning just over $40,000 after years in the role.

Social workers

Another occupation that requires a degree, long hours, lots of emotional investment and often a willingness to put yourself in personal danger to help your clients. And for going into situations that everyone else would rather turn a blind eye to, you can expect to earn an average $48,119.

Early childhood teachers

Is there any parent who doesn’t feel that his or her life has been saved in some way by an early childhood teacher? We trust them with our most precious little people and expect them to be better versions of ourselves – mopping tears, resolving fights, patiently overseeing messy art work and baking projects, playing in sandpits and sharing silly songs. They are tasked with teaching some of life’s earliest lessons and setting kids on the path to future success. They are also responsible for the sanity of many a parent. But even with a degree, early childhood teachers are paid as little as $44,000. Their median wage is estimated at just over $22.50.

It’s time to start fairly acknowledging the care work that women do throughout the economy. Without these people, many of us would not survive. 

The top 20 most female-dominated positions:

Secretaries and keyboard operating clerks

Nurses and midwives

Primary and early childhood teachers

Client information clerks

Other personal services workers

Personal care workers

Special education teaching professionals

Numerical clerks

Social work associate professionals

Archivists, librarians and related information professionals

Cashiers, tellers

Textile products machine operators

Administrative associate professionals

Other teaching professionals

Life science technicians and related workers

Social and related science professionals

Housekeeping and restaurant services workers


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