Occupational segregation

Occupational choices have long-term implications for women’s economic independence, in particular, where women concentrate in occupations that are lower paid and/or have fewer long-term prospects than occupations where men concentrate.

Occupational segregation has both horizontal and vertical dimensions. New Zealand has a clear pattern of horizontal segregation with around half of all women and men working in occupations where at least 70 percent of workers are of the same gender.  A pattern of vertical segregation is also evident as men are more prevalent in managerial positions.

At the end of 2011, industries with a high degree of horizontal segregation included the Construction, Healthcare and Social Assistance, and Education and Training industries. Women were predominantly employed in Retail Trade and Accommodation, Healthcare and Social Assistance, and Education and Training industries, while men were predominantly employed in the Manufacturing and Construction industries.

Occupational segregation is estimated to account for around 30 percent of the gender pay gap because female-dominated occupations tend to be lower paid than those dominated by men and there is a higher proportion of men in senior positions.

In addition to its impacts on individuals, occupational segregation can also result in the inefficient utilisation of women’s and men’s talents across the economy and have a negative impact on labour productivity.  In 2011 the Goldman Sachs report, ‘Closing the gender pay gap: Plenty of potential economic upside’, estimated that improving the workforce participation and the use of women’s skills could boost New Zealand’s GDP by 10 percent.  The OECD and the World Bank also highlight women’s underused skills and talents as a productivity issue.

Much of the Ministry’s work programme either directly or indirectly addresses occupational segregation

Recent initiatives include investigating and addressing barriers for women within male dominated industries. The Ministry initiated Women in Trades networks in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.  These networks are run by tradeswomen for tradeswomen and aim to build support for women working in trades.

Click on the following links for further examples of this work:

Information on innovative initiatives that professional organisations have implemented to increase women’s participation in their industries can be found at the following links: