The Gender Pay Gap: Not just for the middle class

The article begins like this: “Middle-class women’s issues such as the gender pay gap…are to be downgraded”. It continues, “Women in poorly paid jobs, with limited qualifications… will become the priority,” referring to a UK government policy shift.

It is divisive and ignorant to spread the myth that the gender pay gap is a middle-class women’s issue. Why? Let’s remind ourselves what the gender pay gap means.

Gender Pay Gap:

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women.

Let’s look at the maths. Why does the gender pay gap exist, not historically but numerically? Because more women tend to be bunched up in the lowest paying roles, while more men are bunched together in the highest paying roles. Remember, the gender pay gap looks at an average. It does not compare the pay of a male accountant and a female accountant, or a male lawyer and a female lawyer.

It follows, therefore, that the “women in poorly paid jobs, with limited qualifications” are the very women most badly affected by the gender pay gap.

Addressing the gender pay gap means both shifting more women into the top paying roles and shifting more women out of the lowest paying roles. Yes, we’re aiming for more female pilots and CEOs. But for most families, the greatest impact will be felt when there are fewer women in poorly paid jobs.

The gender pay gap affects women, of course. But let us not forget that this is not a one-size-fits-all issue. Māori, Pasifika, and migrant women are the lowest-paid workers in New Zealand, as well as being the most likely to be in casual, part-time, and non-secure work. 48% of women with disabilities earn less than $30,000 per year, compared with 28% of male workers with disabilities.

To call this a middle class issue is to intentionally ignore the fact that the women hardest hit by the historical and social disadvantages that cause the gender pay gap are the poorest, least qualified women.

Closing the gender pay gap will benefit our society as a whole. This is an issue that affects everyone, not just middle-class women.




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