Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

The Human Rights Commission is conducting the Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry to better understand why the Pacific Pay Gap exists and how it can be closed. 

We’ve put some commonly asked questions and answers together to help you understand what we are doing.

The New Zealand Government has binding obligations to protect fundamental rights and freedoms for all people in the country. This includes the right to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work and an adequate standard of living, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, and pay equity or “equal pay for work of equal value”. In the current context, where we are seeing systemic inequities, exemplified in the fact that Pacific women are paid the least, it amounts to a failure to meet those binding obligations.

Yes, these duties arise as a result of the laws that government have passed and the international treaties that they have ratified.

If you think you have faced discrimination based on your ethnicity at work the Human Rights Commission offers a free, informal enquiries and complaints service to deal with unlawful discrimination.

Please see our privacy policy.  The information you provide either to our online survey, workshops, or our talanoa will be used solely for the purpose of informing the work and findings of the Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry. All information you provide will be held confidentially. Personal information provided by individuals and information provided by businesses will be anonymised to ensure that the individual responses cannot be attributed to individuals and organisations/businesses in any report, publication or document that we generate.

We are currently using the publicly available 2020 data from Statistics New Zealand (see NZ.Stat here.) It is based on the Household Labour Force Survey data.  

 

This is data that is gathered and analysed by Stats NZ that provides an accurate picture of the economy and of employment figures. Statistics New Zealand has recently released the figures for 2021, so we will be updating our figures in due course. For Average Hourly Wage, ‘Other Ethnic Groups Men’ is currently the highest earning group, however, this grouping is not a major ethnic group, but rather includes those who identify with ethnic groups that are not classified elsewhere.

 

The dataset shows us that Asian men and women are also paid less than NZ European men.  

Ethnic Group* 

Average Hourly Wage (2020) 

Gap % (Compared to NZ European Men) 

Other Ethnic Groups Men  

36.20 

NZ European Men 

36.06 

MELAA** Men 

35.74 

Other Ethnic Groups Women  

34.72 

NZ European Women 

33.78 

MELAA** Women 

30.41 

16 

Asian Men 

29.44 

18 

Māori Men 

28.99 

20 

Asian Women 

28.15 

22 

Māori Women  

27.68 

23 

Pacific Men 

27.27 

24 

Pacific Women 

26.23 

27 

Indians are currently classified under the grouping of ‘Asian’ in New Zealand statistics. Africans are currently classified under the broader grouping of ‘MELAA’, Middle Eastern, Latin American and African ethnicities. Further, while this Inquiry is focused on Pacific peoples, our ultimate objective is to achieve pay equity for all ethnic groups and genders. It is our hope that a focus on the lowest earners and the measures that government and businesses need to implement will have an impact on a better workplace and work conditions throughout all of Aotearoa.

While we’d like to cover as many sectors as we can, we decided to focus on three sectors for the Inquiry where there are high concentrations of Pacific peoples in the workforce. According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)’s labour market data in December 2020, the two sectors for which there were the highest concentration of Pacific workers were manufacturing and construction. In order to achieve a gender-parity lens we decided to look at health care and social assistance, noting that the construction industry was quite male-dominated.

Unfortunately, whether you use the average (mean) or the median, Pacific people remain the lowest earners.  We have used average hourly wage, however, median hourly wage can also be used. Both measures have their advantages and disadavantages.  

 

Average, or mean pay is the sum of all pay, divided by the number of people earning that total pay – the amount of money each employee would receive if the total pay was divided evenly among all employees. It takes into account the value of every person’s pay in the group. 

 

Median pay is the middle amount of pay earned – half the employees earn less and half earn more than the median amount. This means that a small number of people who have extremely high or low pay do not greatly influence the median.  

 

The following table shows the results of calculating the ethnic pay gap by median hourly wage instead of average hourly wage.  

Ethnic Group* 

Median Hourly Wage (2020) 

Gap % (Compared to NZ European Men) 

MELAA** Men 

30.74 

+7 

NZ European Men 

28.77 

Other Ethnicity Men 

27.90 

NZ European Women  

26.08 

Māori Men 

25.57 

11 

Asian Men 

25.38 

12 

Other Ethnicity Women 

25.00 

13 

Asian Women 

24.98 

13 

MELAA** Women 

24.98 

13 

Pacific Men 

24.29 

16 

Māori Women 

23.92 

17 

Pacific Women 

23.89 

17 

*Note:  Each person can choose multiple ethnic groups they identify with. The person then counts once, in each ethnic group chosen.  

**MELAA groups together people who identified as Middle Eastern, Latin American and/or African ethnicities. 

Source: This table was calculated from publicly available data from Statistics New Zealand (NZ.Stat). It is drawn from the Income Table: Earnings for people in paid employment by region, sex, age groups and ethnic groups based on Household Labour Force Data.  

There are numerous ways to measure pay gaps. One advantage of using hourly wage instead of annual salary is that it helps us take into account the fact that some people work part-time.

We need to be clear about the various distinctions in this area of work:

  1. Equal pay is about men and women getting the same pay for doing the same job.
  2. Pay equity is about women and men receiving the same pay for doing jobs that are different, but of equal value.
  3. Employment equity is about fairness at work. It means people have the same opportunities to participate fully in employment regardless of their gender.

 

Yes, certain professions are better paid than others. When occupations are dominated by women, there is a tendency for such work to be undervalued, due to the unequal social status of women. The latest amendments to the Equal Pay Act which came into force last year are designed to address this inequality.

 

The Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry is considering all factors which contribute to the pay gaps experienced by both Pacific men and women in New Zealand. The factors leading to these disparities are complex.

 

The concentration of Pacific workers in certain occupations that are undervalued is certainly contributing to the Pacific Pay Gaps that we observe, however, it does not appear to explain everything.

 

A paper published by Treasury based on 2016-17 data found that while educational level and occupation played a significant role in helping to explain the pay gaps experienced by Pacific people, about half of the overall gap remained unexplained. According to their analysis:

  • differences in highest qualification account for 19-22% of the wage gap for Pacific men and 20-22% of the wage gap for Pacific women
  • differences in occupation account for 31-33% of the wage gap for Pacific men and 29-33% of the wage gap for Pacific women. (See here for the full results.)

 

The Treasury paper suggests that further research with employers would help understand the contribution of ethnic discrimination to these disparities.