Effect of motherhood on pay – summary of results: June 2016 quarter


This short report summarises Statistics New Zealand's investigation into the effect of motherhood on women’s pay in New Zealand. It is intended to guide future research in this area by measuring the difference in the gender pay gap between parents and non-parents of both sexes. In particular, we focus on the difference in the pay gap of mothers and fathers relative to women and men without children.

As the gender pay gap is a measure of a negative effect on women, we call the difference between the size of the pay gap for parents and the size of the pay gap for non-parents the ‘motherhood penalty’.

Our analysis is an initial investigation that identified a need for further, more in-depth research.

In this study, a parent is defined as a person with a dependent child living in the same house. Due to the nature of the survey, we could not identify parents whose child was no longer living with them. Because we are looking at the gender pay gap between parents and non-parents, we are not comparing the difference in pay between women with children and women without children.

Key results

Gender pay gap still exists in New Zealand
In the June 2016 quarter, our analysis showed female hourly earnings were $22.40 on average, compared with $25.24 for males. This equates to a gender pay gap of 11 percent, similar to the pay gap shown by the existing median measure (see figure 1). 

A significant ‘motherhood penalty’ exists
The comparisons we make between gender pay gaps of employed mothers and fathers (parents) and employed women and men without children (non-parents) let us assess if there is a motherhood penalty, and if it changes depending on full-time or part-time work.

In the June 2016 quarter:

  • The gender pay gap between female and male parents (17 percent) was significantly larger than the gender pay gap between non-parents (5 percent), which puts the motherhood penalty at around 12 percentage points (figure 2).
  • The motherhood penalty was greater for mothers working part time than for those working full time). However, the size of the motherhood penalty for part-time workers is more influenced by the very small gender pay gap for non-parents whowork part time.
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