How does parenting affect women's and men's salaries?

New research has revealed the impact of having children on the salaries of men and women in New Zealand

How does parenting affect women's and men's salaries?

The gender pay gap is larger among parents than non-parents, according to new research Parenthood and Labour Market Outcomes, commissioned by the Ministry for Women and undertaken by AUT and the Motu Institute.

The research found wage difference was 5.7% between men and women without children, but 12.5% between men and women who were parents.

National Council of Women Chief Executive and Gender Equal NZ spokesperson Gill Greer said the fact there is a persisting pay gap in New Zealand at all is “absolutely unacceptable”.  

“But what we’re seeing here is the result of out-dated and old-fashioned ideas about gender roles – and women are losing out because of this,” said Greer.

“Our recent Gender Attitudes Survey has shown us that New Zealanders have these strong ideas about what boys and men should be like – harden up and men don’t cry – but this ignores the fact that men are absolutely capable of empathy, vulnerability and compassion – all of which help to make great Dads.”

Moreover, results from the same survey show that 85% of New Zealanders think that fathers and mothers should equally share responsibility for raising their children.

“Breaking down ideas about traditional gender roles, where men are protecting and providing – being the breadwinner – and women are parenting, is essential to achieving gender equality” said Greer.

Dr Isabelle Sin, Fellow at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research and a lead author of this research, said there will not be equality in the labour market until it is just as common for Dads to stay home, “while Mums are the breadwinner”.

“We’d like to see all parents in New Zealand able to negotiate income and caregiving based on what works for them – not what gender roles dictate,” added Greer.

“This would increase equality at home and in the work force and would allow Dads to be part of that early bonding time.”

Parenthood and Labour Market Outcomes results show that motherhood impacts on labour market outcomes differently for different women. For some the result is a gender pay gap, for others an employment gap.

For example, before becoming mothers, Māori and Pasifika women were far more likely not to be employed than Pākehā women, but this gap narrowed after they became mothers.

Moreover, Pākehā mothers have a 59% employment rate in their child’s tenth year compared with 41% for Pasifika mothers and 45% for Māori mothers.

“Gender inequality impacts on different groups in different ways – and what we’re seeing here is that there are some groups of women who are losing out even more due to racism and other forms of discrimination” said Greer.

“What we know about discrimination and inequality is that they do not operate in isolation. So for these mothers their experiences and opportunities are affected by both sexism and racism.

“This creates worse outcomes for them than for other groups of women – but gender equality is a universal human right to which everyone is entitled.”

Moreover, research by Accenture Australian and New Zealand recently found that women are more than twice as likely to be on the fast track to gender equality in organisations where leadership teams are held accountable for improving genderdiversity (75% compared to 36%).


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