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New Zealand’s parliament has unanimously passed an Equal Pay Amendment Bill that ensures workers are not paid less because of their gender. 

The equal pay legislation goes beyond ensuring men and women are paid the same for the same work — which has been enshrined in New Zealand law since 1972. The amendment bill focuses on pay equity by ensuring women in historically underpaid female-dominated industries receive the same remuneration as men in different but equal-value work.

The new bill makes it easier for workers to lodge pay equity claims because it sets clear guidelines for comparing pay between women in female-dominated professions and men with “substantially similar skills, responsibility, and service” in male-dominated occupations.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised to amend the existing legislation when she was elected in 2017.

"In 2017, we said we’d fix the legislation aimed at addressing historic inequalities in pay for women. Today, we have,” Ardern wrote on Instagram. “The bill delivers on our promise to create a more equitable Aotearoa (New Zealand) by making it easier for employees to raise a pay equity claim, and by encouraging collaborative mediation before issues are escalated to the courts. To everyone who got us to this point, for all the years of hard work, thank you.” 

The new legislation was heavily influenced by The Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) and Business New Zealand.

NZCTU President Richard Wagstaff — a member of the Pay Equity Joint Working Group alongside various employers and government representatives — said the bill’s passing is one of the most substantial moments for gender equality in New Zealand in decades. 

"Working women have been campaigning to equalize the gender pay imbalance for decades,” he said in a media release. “The passing of new equal pay law provides structure and support in fixing the systemic problem of paying women less because of their gender.” 

Labour MP Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki also labeled the bill as a win for Pacific women in New Zealand — who are among the nation’s lowest income earners, according to Radio New Zealand. 

New Zealand has long prioritized equality between men and women.

The nation was the first globally to give women the right to vote in 1893 and the second country in the world to grant domestic abuse victims paid leave. Ardern was also the first world leader to ever go on maternity leave after the birth of her daughter, Neve, in 2018. 

New Zealand is ranked sixth in the world in the Global Gender Gap Index for 2020.


Demand Equity

New Zealand Passes Substantial Bill to Ensure Pay Equity Between Men and Women

By Erica SánchezMadeleine Keck  and  Pia Gralki