National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women: Forty Years of Work 1967-2007
Women and Pay
Over this 40 year period, women's participation in the workforce has almost doubled. In 1967 36.6% of women worked compared to 88.6% of men.  In December 2006, 60.7% of women worked compared to 75.6% of men. Yet equal pay for work of equal value remains elusive.
In 1968 the Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity encouraged NACEW to see equal pay as being an issue for women. The following year NACEW received a paper from the Department of Labour on this issue and then recommended to the Minister that the government should move towards acceptance of the ILO Convention (No.100) concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value. The Minister considered the request favourably but was concerned with the practical difficulties of implementing the principle of equal pay because of the varying circumstances of different industries.
In October 1970, the Industrial Relations Centre at Victoria University of Wellington held a seminar on equal pay in response to a request by NACEW. This was attended by representatives of trade unions, the New Zealand Manufacturers' Association and personnel managers from companies. The purpose was to promote "systematic and informed discussion of the economic, social, political, and practical problems of applying the principle of equal pay to the economy as a whole." The proceedings were published the following year.
This same year, the Council was pleased that a Commission of Inquiry to formulate recommendations on how best to implement equal pay in New Zealand was to be set up. The Council was asked for input on the terms of reference for this inquiry.
The announcement of the setting up of the Commission of Inquiry into equal pay was made in January 1971. The terms of reference of the Inquiry embodied suggestions drawn up by NACEW the previous year. The report of the Commission was tabled in Parliament at the end of the year.
Following the Commission 'the outstanding event in 1972 in the field of women's employment was the enactment of the Equal Pay Act, which became law on 20 October 1972.' Although the Council saw this as one of the most important steps taken in promoting women's employment, NACEW also saw it as 'only one of the measures which will be called if New Zealand are to make full use of their abilities, and to do so without detriment to family life.' The Act legislated for equal pay to be introduced over a five-year period. The Council was aware that follow-up action was needed to ensure that it would achieve its purpose. NACEW was concerned that women who were not union members and not covered by an award were at a disadvantage. These women could take a case to the Industrial Court with the support of the Department of Labour; however, the Council doubted such cases would be taken.
NACEW wanted the implementation of the Act to be monitored and wrote to the Minister asking that a review committee on the Act's implementation be set up. This occurred in 1975 and the committee reported that on the whole satisfactory progress in implementing the Act was being made. However, it was considered that more publicity was needed, as was more staff to police the legislation in female dominated occupations, in districts where above award rates were paid, and where women were not covered by an award. The government made moves to mark International Women's Year by ratifying ILO Convention (No.100) concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women. In 1976, the Council initiated the Step up Equal Pay publicity campaign to sit alongside the Department of Labour's efforts promoting equal pay. The Council was concerned at the lack of knowledge about equal pay among women workers.
By 1976, women's average ordinary time hourly earnings stood at 78.7% of the male rate compared with the estimate in October 1972 of 69.9%. The overall movement of wages since October 1972 in the average ordinary time hourly earnings was 96% for women and 74% for men, a considerable advance.
In 1978, the Equal Pay Review Committee was re-established to finally report on the five-year implementation of the Equal Pay Act provisions and issued its report in 1979. The Council was still concerned about the lack of publicity about the Act and that its provisions were still needed. NACEW agreed to keep monitoring the implementation of the Act. In 1980, NACEW produced an information package primarily for educational institutions about equal opportunities as well as equal pay.
In 1985, still concerned about the pay gap, the Council asked the Minister of Employment for a Ministerial Review of the equal pay legislation. A review group was formed to identify the reasons for and extent to which factors other than sex discrimination result in differences in earnings between females and males.
This comprehensive study had three parts, the first statistical, the second obtaining additional information identified as necessary, and the third phase an analysis of the information collected. The Phase One report found that existing equal pay legislation had not reduced the male/female pay gap significantly, nor had equal pay legislation resulted in equal pay for work of equal value and recommended therefore that legislation for equal pay for work of equal value was needed. The Phase Two report recommended that the third phase should look at whether it was necessary to change current equal pay legislation and if so, what changes should be made. 
In 1988, Margaret Wilson convened the Working Group on Equal Employment Opportunities and Equal Pay whose role was to provide a framework for a structure to help deliver pay and employment equity to New Zealand women. The report concluded that legislation was necessary for the achievement of pay and employment equity and made recommendations on the structure of an Employment Equity Act. Submissions on documents were sought and considered. In 1989, the government agreed in principle to an Employment Equity Act, which included equal employment opportunity and pay equity. NACEW welcomed the legislation but was concerned with several aspects of the Act, which were detailed in NACEW's submission to the Bill. However, the legislation was only in operation for a short period as it was repealed in December 1990.
In May 2003, NACEW prepared a response to the Ministry of Women's Affairs' paper Next Steps towards Pay Equity, which outlined steps the government could take within the current climate to address the gender pay gap including legislation to require employers to take action on the issue, improved access to training for women in low-income jobs, and increases in the minimum wage to address the gender pay gap.
In December 2003 the Taskforce on Pay and Employment Equity in the Public Service and the Public Health and Public Education Sectors chaired by Diana Crossan, a former member of NACEW and at the time Retirement Commissioner, reported to the Government. The Taskforce comprised the Chief Executives (or their nominees) of the Department of Labour, Ministry of Women's Affairs and the State Services Commission, as well as three nominees of the NZ Council of Trade Unions.
As part of the follow-up to this Taskforce in June 2004, NACEW organised a conference on Pay and Employment Equity for Women to discuss and debate pay and employment equity issues, looking at New Zealand and overseas experience, and to discuss a way forward for pay and employment equity in New Zealand. Speakers from overseas included Dr Pat Armstrong (Canada), Mary Cornish (Canada), Philippa Hall (Australia), Dr Heidi Hartmann (USA), Professor Aileen McColgan (UK) and Dr Barbara Pocock (Australia) as well as New Zealand experts. In June 2005, NACEW invited Julie Mellor, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission UK, to New Zealand to talk about the operation of the voluntary pay equity audits that had been introduced in the UK. Whilst in New Zealand, she spoke to companies as well as policy analysts in government. In 2005/06, NACEW commissioned the paper, The Economic Rationales for Closing the Gender Pay Gap. The findings from this paper, including the rationale for a gender focus in economic transformation and productivity arenas, have formed the basis of current work.
Statistics show that the gender pay gap is lessening. In 1972, women's pay was 72% of men's ordinary time hourly earnings (Boyd, A, 1997); in 1984, on average, women earned 78.4% of the male hourly mean wage; and in 2006 women earned on average 86.4% of the male hourly mean wage.
Equal pay and moves towards pay equity have made a difference to the pay of some women. Other issues connected to gender pay equality that have been worked on by NACEW recently include the annual minimum wage review, and women in low paid jobs or in homecare who are vulnerable.
Women and pay has been on the agenda for NACEW throughout its 40 years. Pay equity has been one of the concerns but there have been other issues surrounding women and pay. In 1979, NACEW responded to the New Zealand Planning Council's document Income Maintenance and Taxation by stating that women should no longer be regarded as dependants to be supported automatically by the State should they lose the support of a husband. The Council believed that there should be equal treatment of the sexes in both payment of benefits and for taxation and that all workers should be entitled to pro-rata income support from the government.
In 2000, NACEW submitted comments on the annual review of the minimum wage to the Minister of Labour noting the over representation of women on low incomes and that increases in the minimum wage were likely to have a positive effect on the employment experiences of women. Further comments were submitted on this topic in each of the following years.
In 2004, NACEW formed a sub-group to look at precarious employment and focussed on the home care, residential and cleaning sectors which government funded through contractors. The sub-group commissioned research to provide advice on how the government might improve the quality of work for women in these areas. The recommendations focused on achieving effective changes in wages and employment conditions for employees in these sectors.
 (Chapple, S NZIER WP 94/16)
 (December 2006)
 NACEW Annual Report 1969, p. 5.
 Young, F.J.L., Keating, E.J , (ed) Proceedings of a seminar on equal pay for equal work, Wellington, 1971.
 Equal pay in New Zealand: Report of the Commission of Inquiry, Wellington, September 1971.
 NACEW Annual Report 1972, p. 1.
 The Government made moves to mark International Women’s Year by ratifying ILO Convention (No.100) concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women. (see NACEW Annual Report 1974, p. 2.)
 NACEW Annual Report 1976, p. 2.
 Hyman, P.J. Equal pay study: phase one, report, Wellington, 1987 and Equal Pay Steering Committee, Equal pay study: phase two report, Wellington, 1987 and Working Group on Equal Employment Opportunities and Equal Pay, Towards employment equity report, Wellington, 1988.
 Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Next steps towards pay equity: a discussion document, Wellington 2002.
 Dwyer, Maire, The Economic Rationales for Closing the Gender Gap, Wellington, 2006. (available on NACEW’s website http://www.nacew.govt.nz/publications/pay-gap/gender-pay-gap.pdf [PDF file, 41 pages, 200KB])
 Dixon, S, Labour Market Bulletin:1996:1
 NACEW Annual Report 1979, p. 4.
 NACEW Annual Report 1979, p. 4.