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The state of gender equality in New Zealand – what the reports say


The Global Gender Gap report for 2016 puts New Zealand in 9th place out of 144 countries with a parity score of 0.781 (where 1.0 = complete parity), yet recent research carried out by recruitment and HR firm, Randstad’s Workmonitor Report, on gender equality in the workplace, puts us in 27th place out of 33 countries. The Human Rights Commission’s tracking equality at work 2016 survey also places New Zealand in the bottom ten countries surveyed globally.

So how is New Zealand really performing, and what measures should we be looking at?

A number of reports exist over and above the three mentioned above. The focus of these reports can vary considerably, as can the data collection method. Looking at a spectrum of reports gives useful and varied perspectives, as long as we understand the context and know what to do with the information.

Importantly, the reports point to consistent areas of inequality – specifically in female representation (particularly in managerial, executive, non-executive and parliamentary roles), in labour force participation, and on the gender pay gap.

 1. The Global Gender Gap Report 2016

This annual report reviews the following four categories, and uses a scorecard method to rank each country on sub-indicators within each category.

  1. Economic Participation and opportunity
  2. Educational attainment
  3. Health and survival
  4. Political empowerment.

Overall, the education and health categories have by far the highest average scores across the 144 countries, so whilst New Zealand has its lowest sub-rankings within these two categories (40th and 104th, respectively), it is also at its closest to parity within these categories, with scores of 0.999, and 0.970 respectively. The areas of ‘economic participation and opportunity’, and ‘political empowerment’ are where the greatest distance to parity exist for New Zealand, and across the 144 countries.

1.1 Economic Participation and Opportunity

New Zealand scored 0.765 for this category, scoring particularly low for ‘estimated earned income’ (score of 0.609), ‘Legislators, senior officials and managers’ (0.665), and ‘wage equality for similar work (survey)’ (0.754).

Importantly, when comparing this information against previous results, New Zealand made notable gains between 2006 and 2008 (where its category score increased from 0.714 to 0.779). However its scores have remained reasonably stable since 2008, if anything slipping downwards in the past three years.

1.2 Political Empowerment

With an average score of 0.233 for all 144 countries, this is clearly the area of greatest disparity. New Zealand ranked 16th with a score of 0.390, some distance from Iceland’s (1st ranked) score of 0.719.

For New Zealand, again, little gain has been made since 2008.

1.3 Summary

New Zealand’s agenda for closing the gender gap sits firmly at the door of ‘economic participation and opportunity’, and ‘political empowerment’ – both of which suggest we have a considerable way to go to reach gender parity. Of greatest importance to gender equality discussions is the lack of progress made by New Zealand in the past eight years.

Iceland tops the list for 2016 with a score of 0.874, and has ranked number one since 2009. Interestingly, Iceland’s score in 2006 was identical to New Zealand’s score in 2016 – at 0.781.

New Zealand’s highest ranking was 5th (2007-2010), and its highest score was 0.788 in 2009.

2. Randstad’s Workmonitor Report

Covering countries across Europe, Asia Pacific and Americas, Randstad’s Workmonitor report involves an online survey completed by workforce participants aged 18 to 65, who are in paid employment (not self-employed) for a minimum of 24 hours per week. It has a minimal sample of 400 employees per country.

This quarterly report looks specifically at how the workforce participants perceive gender equality in the workplace within their respective countries – and how this changes over time.

Seventy-eight percent of the kiwis surveyed agreed that both sexes are treated equally, which sits below the global average of 81 percent, and puts New Zealand at 27th place (out of 33) overall.

Interestingly, less than half of the kiwis surveyed (46 percent) believed that gender equality increases with the seniority of the top job – ranking New Zealand 32nd (ahead of Denmark only) for this particular question.

In comparison with the Global Gender Gap Report, Randstad’s report looks at a more focused division of gender equality (being gender equality in the workplace), but consistently with the former report, points to disparity – of similar magnitude (78 percent versus 76.5 percent) – in the area, here loosely coined as, ‘workplace participation and opportunity‘.

3. Tracking Equality at Work 2016

Carried out by the Human Rights Commission, tracking equality at work is a web-based interactive tool that focuses on equality in the New Zealand workplace. It tracks 24 indicators across four key aspects of work: employment, pay, leadership and discrimination. In contrast to the Global Gender Gap Report, and similar to Randstad’s work monitor report, it is specifically focused on equality in the workplace, and it provides a greater level of granularity for population groups within the New Zealand economy (e.g. data by ethnic and age group).

Looking at the four key aspects of work, the following broad recommendations are taken directly from the report (greater detail can be read in the report itself).

3.1. Employment

  • “Women have higher rates of unemployment, underemployment and NEET (not in employment, education or training) and lower rates of labour force participation than men.”
  • These statistics comprise notable ethnic and age group divisions.


3.2 Pay

  • “Pay differences exist in both the broader labour market and the public service. Men are paid more than women, European New Zealanders are paid more than other ethnic groups, and disabled people have lower incomes than non-disabled people.”
  • Again, the report provides a detailed assessment and comparison across ethnic groups and age groups.


3.3 Leadership

  • “Just under a third of senior management positions in private sector New Zealand firms were held by women from 2011 to 2014. In 2015, representation has dropped to just under a fifth at 19 percent.
  • In regard to senior management in the public service, in 2011 women made up 39.6% of senior managers. In 2015 women make up 44.2% of senior managers
  • On state sector boards the percentage of female appointees has increased to 43 percent which is a ten year high, up nearly 2% from 2014.”
  • Breakdown by ethnic group is not collected.


3.4 Discrimination

  • “The most frequent grounds of complaint pre-employment in 2014 were race and disability. In 2015 the most frequent grounds for complaint were age and race.”


 4. Conclusion

Whilst differences exist between each report that influence how New Zealand’s performance can be perceived, a detailed review of each report gives two clear, consistent messages:

  1. We are making extremely slow progress, and we have a considerable way to go to reach gender equality in New Zealand. Little gain has been made over the past eight years; in some key areas we are moving backwards.
  2. Scores for gender equality in the workplace and in politics present the areas of greatest disparity – with New Zealand consistently ranked towards the bottom of global surveys.

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