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Women's incomes lower than men's

Personal income can be seen to reflect a distinct life-cycle pattern, with the life-cycle stages of women having a significant impact both on their capacity to earn and on the income they receive as a result. Many of these stages revolve around, but are not confined to, childbearing and child-raising. The labour force implications of these events, as well as other factors, mean that women do not experience constant levels of personal income throughout their lifetime. In 1996, the median annual income received by women in New Zealand was $12,600. This is equivalent to 57.2 percent of the median annual income received by men ($22,000).

Although still lower, women's income has, and is continuing to make significant gains relative to men’s. This improvement may be fuelled by such reforms as the 1972 Equal Pay Act and increasing numbers of women in employment. In 1986, the median income of women was equivalent to 50.1 percent of their male counterparts. By 1996 this had improved to 57.2 percent although this represented a slight drop from 58.6 percent in 1991 when the incomes of both women and men were at their lowest in this ten-year period.

Analysis of real incomes (inflation adjusted to some base period) shows that women's incomes have changed little in the last 10 years. In 1996, the median income of women in New Zealand was $12,600, a slight decline from 1986 when the real median income was $12,800. By comparison, New Zealand men experienced a more significant change in income levels with a decline in real median income between 1986 and 1996. This indicates that advancements in women's income, relative to men, are not the result of an increase in women's income, per se, but rather a fall in the income of men. Overall, the median personal income of all New Zealand adults declined by 13.4 percent between 1986 and 1996, from $18,000 to $15,600.

graph, Median personal income by age, 1996

Initially, the personal income of women increases rapidly as they move out of the prime years of educational participation. By the ages of 25-29 years women could expect a median income of $17,300. This is equivalent to two-thirds (66.6 percent) of that received by their male counterparts at the same age. However, the income levels of women begin to drop as they enter the key childbearing, followed by child-raising, years. The effects of such responsibilities can be seen in the figure above. While men’s personal income levels continue to rise, women's income levels fall after the ages of 25-29 years and they do not regain these levels until the ages of 45-49 years. This older age group receives the highest median personal incomes amongst both women and men, but the ground lost by women is evident in the fact that their income at this peak is equivalent to only 54.7 percent of that received by men in the same age group.

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Women in New Zealand

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