Pay gap not closing for young women

00:52, Aug 01 2013
Chloe Sifflett
FAVOURITISM: McDonald's worker Chloe Sifflett says: "Guys get more shifts and more training than the girls."

Young women are earning almost a third less than young men in real terms, despite the gender pay gap closing.

Men aged 15 to 24 brought home median weekly earnings of $600 in 2012, compared with $384 for women of the same age, figures from Statistics New Zealand's annual Income Survey show.

Young women's total incomes have stagnated in recent years, as they worked fewer hours than men, and in lower-paid industries.

The smallest gap in real incomes was in 2009, when men took home $5560 a year more than women. By 2012, this gap had doubled to $11,200.

The gulf in real incomes comes despite a closing of the pay gap between men and women doing roughly equal work. In 2011, young men were paid 4.3 per cent more than women in similar work, which fell to 2.2 per cent in 2012.

University of Canterbury professor Lucy Johnston said recent economic troubles may have seen young women return to traditionally "female" professions, which typically attracted lower pay.


"I think there had been some improvement in women taking on more traditional male jobs. It may be [employers] are less willing to take a gamble now."

Pay Equity Challenge Coalition spokeswoman Angela McLeod said thatalthough some of the difference could be explained by higher numbers of women undertaking university study, the economic downturn had hit women harder, with many finding that part-time work was their only option.

Unite union co-ordinator Heleyni Pratley said the fast-food industry, which had a predominantly young workforce, still witnessed unconscious discrimination.

Men were promoted over their more experienced, but often naive, female co-workers, who were far less likely to ask for things such as overtime pay.

A McDonald's worker, Chloe Sifflett, 21, said favouritism towards boys certainly played a role in her workplace. "Guys get more shifts and more training than the girls."

She believed women her age needed to be more aware of equality issues, but understood why workers might not want to rock the boat.

"The main priority is finding a job and keeping a job."

Women's Affairs Minister Jo Goodhew celebrated the closing gender pay gap, but said any difference in earnings was a concern.

The Dominion Post