The gender pay gap is a high-level indicator of the difference between women's and men’s earnings. It compares the hourly earnings of women and men in full- and part-time work. It refers to an organisation-wide, industry-wide, or economy-wide gender pay issue.

The gender pay gap in Aotearoa New Zealand has reduced steadily from 16.3% in 1998 but has fluctuated over the past decade. It is currently 8.6%. The gender pay gap for wāhine Māori, Pacific and Asian women, and disabled women is significantly higher than the overall gap.

Median hourly earnings for all women are currently $30.15 compared to $33.00 for all men (as at September 2023). European women had median hourly earnings of $31.50, but by comparison, Asian women earned $29.00, wāhine Māori earned $28.29, and Pacific women earned $28.00. 

What causes the gender pay gap?

The causes of the gender pay gap are complex. In the past, a substantial proportion of the gender pay gap was due to factors such as differences in education, the occupations and industries that men and women worked in, or the fact that women were more likely to work part-time. We now know these factors only explain around 20% of the current gender pay gap.

The majority (80%) of the gender pay gap is now driven by what the research calls ‘unexplained’ factors. These are the harder to measure factors, like conscious and unconscious bias and differences in men’s and women’s choices and behaviours.

Behaviour, attitudes, and biases

Behaviour, attitudes, and biases are interrelated. There are still deeply held societal attitudes and beliefs about the types of work that are appropriate for men and women, the relative importance of occupations where men or women dominate, and the allocation of unpaid work, like caring for children and housework. These attitudes affect not only the choices men and women make around paid and unpaid work, but also the behaviours of others toward men and women who make choices that are not consistent with these traditional beliefs.

Bias makes it difficult for women to adapt and succeed in workplaces and by its nature it is difficult to detect, both by those who benefit and those who are disadvantaged. It influences small day-to-day behaviours (like who is called on to offer an opinion or undertake challenging tasks, and whose contributions are positively acknowledged in meetings), as well as decisions on hiring, promotions and setting salaries. While discrimination is against the law, bias can affect decisions people make in ways that they’re not aware of.

Occupational segregation

Occupational segregation refers to the clustering of men and women workers in particular occupations. Occupational segregation can widen the gender pay gap, as women-dominated occupations tend to be lower paid than those dominated by men and there is a higher proportion of men in senior positions.

Unpaid and caring work

Women and men have different patterns of participation in the paid workforce, principally because women spend a greater proportion of their time on unpaid and caring work than men. When women return to the paid workforce from career breaks, they often have trouble getting their careers back on track. 

Although unpaid work makes an important contribution to the economy and plays a pivotal role in society and to individuals and communities, it is not visible, widely understood, or recognised, as ‘real’ work. All of this has a significant impact on women’s lifetime earnings and financial security and contributes to the gender pay gap widening. 

Read more about paid and unpaid work.

Reducing the gender pay gap

Given the range of causes, the solution to the gender pay gap is complex and requires sustained action over time from a range of participants, including workers, employers, careers advisers, business leaders, employee groups and government, and a change in societal attitudes and beliefs about women and men, and work.

Pay gaps can be reduced and addressed through pay gap reporting, pay equity, and wider opportunities for women and girls in education, training, and employment. 

We have developed the What’s My Gender Pay Gap? tool that you can use to find out what the gender pay gap is across a range of sectors, and find out what employers and you as an individual can do to help close these gaps. You can also find out what the government is doing to close the gender pay gap.

Further reading: Gender Pay Gap

The Ministry has published a range of reports, action plans, and resources on the Gender Pay Gap. 

The gender pay gap in New Zealand since 1998

2023 8.6%
2022 9.2%
2021 9.1%
2020 9.5%
2019 9.3%
2018 9.2%
2017 9.4%
2016 12.0%
2015 11.8%
2014 9.9%
2013 11.2%
2012 9.1%
2011 10.3%
2010 10.8%
2009 11.5%
2008 12.5%
2007 11.9%
2006 12.1%
2005 24.0%
2004 12.7%
2003 12.5%
2002 12.3%
2001 13.1%
2000 14.0%
1999 15.2%
1998 16.3%





















Source: Stats NZ Household Labour Force Survey (June 2023)