Employers need to understand the incoming workforce are largely values driven – we want to work for organisations we can be proud of, and that means reducing inequality
Opinion: From October 1, Pacific women have essentially been working for free, not because we have all decided to take leave without pay, but because of the persisting ethnic and gender pay gaps.
I reflect on my grandmother Talili Fuasou Tautai, who at 19 answered New Zealand’s call for cheap labour by leaving Samoa to work two factory jobs at a time to lay the foundations for my family’s migrant dream. My mum had to leave school to start working at 14. Both of these strong Samoan women deserve their flowers.
Time is a luxury that not many are afforded. The working poor are time poor. I grew up in hardship, and pay gaps were never a topic of conversation in our house. It is not lost on me that finishing my studies and entering the full-time workforce, both the privilege and the onus is on me to consider and fight against pay gaps.
My story is not rare, there are many people who have been in and will continue to be in that position of social mobility in their whānau. That the giants whose shoulders we stand on were focused on keeping the lights on so we could have the opportunity to ask for more.
The pay gap disproportionately affects Māori, Pacific, Asian, ethnic minority communities and people with disabilities. By the time we are at the end of our working life, women are up to $318,000 worse off in retirement and the Mind the Gap campaign found that pay gaps result in women losing out on $35 per week on average.
Government should mandate businesses to report their pay gaps and look at supporting those businesses to make changes to be more equitable in their hiring, remuneration and general practice. At the current rate of change, it will take more than 120 years to eliminate pay gaps. That is not good enough.
My dad protested for fair pay in South Auckland at the factory he worked at from the late 90s. The Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry showed that the Pacific-Pākehā pay gap for men was 73 percent and is because of barriers such as racism, unconscious bias and discrimination in workplaces. The onus should not have to be on individuals such as my dad to fix this.
The realities of being a Pacific person, raised in poverty and being a young woman, means I am often in rooms with people who don’t look like me. Talking about salary is awkward and unfamiliar. It shouldn’t be up to me to fix this. But my peers and I know that it’s about the collective.
Employers need to understand that the incoming workforce are largely values driven – we want to work for organisations we can be proud of. Registering for the Mind the Gap pay registry is an opportunity to be a leader in your sector and do the right thing.
Government should mandate businesses to report their pay gaps and look at supporting those businesses to make changes to be more equitable in their hiring, remuneration and general practice. At the current rate of change, it will take more than 120 years to eliminate pay gaps. That is not good enough. Aotearoa deserves more.
Pay gap reporting is about correcting injustices and exploitation faced in the past, by strong women such as my nanny Talili, acknowledging many people’s childhoods are cut short to survive such as my resilient mum, and the many men of colour who are also disproportionately affected by unfair pay such as my dad.
This month we may celebrate be the Day of the Girl, but it is only fitting to acknowledge the village that raised this girl into a woman.