There is little or no gender pay gap for workers aged 15 to 19 years. This reflects lower (and regulated) pay rates for young people competing for part-time work. However a pay gap emerges at ages 20 to 24, and this continues to widen.
As the workforce ages, a number of factors come into play, including unconscious bias, the distribution of paid and unpaid work, unequal career progression, and men and women working different jobs. Older women also face a greater chance of discrimination in the workforce than older men – especially wāhine Māori and women of Pacific or Asian ethnicities (you can read more about this here).
Unpaid work is a significant factor. From age 30, around one third of women begin working in part time employment, while more men continue to work full-time. Studies have shown that men and women are actually working roughly the same amount of hours, but women are working more unpaid hours in activities like caring and volunteering. Many older women who have taken career breaks to raise children stay in part-time work until retirement, balancing paid work with contributions to their families and communities.
When women take on caregiving roles within families and start working fewer paid hours, this can mean:
- one partner is burdened with the stress of providing income, leaving the family more vulnerable to employment shocks like illness or unemployment
- women and children can be disproportionately affected when relationships break up
- women can become financially dependent on their partners, and some might be forced to stay in abusive relationships
- the “working parent” spends less time their children.
With fairer employment conditions for parents, access to childcare and dual investment in parents’ careers, there is potential for families to share paid and unpaid work - including time with children.