This dropped into my email inbox today from Statistics New Zealand (full release here)
The gender pay gap was 9.2 percent in the June 2018 quarter, Stats NZ said today.
This is the second-smallest gap since the series began 20 years ago. In comparison, the gender pay gap was 9.1 percent in 2012 (the lowest on record) and 9.4 percent last year.
The gender pay gap shows the difference in median hourly earnings for men and women. For the second year in a row, the gap reflected that median hourly earnings for women, from wages and salaries, increased faster than for men, up 3.2 and 2.9 percent, respectively.
“The gender pay gap is a useful measure when trying to understand differences in pay between men and women, due to its simplicity. But this measure is limited. It doesn’t account for men and women doing different jobs or working different hours. It also doesn’t account for personal characteristics that can influence pay, such as qualifications and age,” Mr Broughton said.
In other words, it is almost certainly of very little use at all.
There does seem to be an increasing trend for our supposedly independent statistics agency to be working in league with government departments championing particular causes. This seems to be another example. Thus on the SNZ email we read this advert
Renee Graham, Chief Executive of the Ministry for Women, discusses the gender pay on YouTube from 11am.
It is to be expected that the Ministry for Women will have a view on such data, and causes to champion. But what is Statistics New Zealand doing promoting the views of an advocacy agency? Doesn’t it risk compromising confidence in SNZ’s statistics? No doubt the Governor of the Reserve Bank has a view on the CPI numbers, or indeed the GDP or employment numbers, but it would be a worry if SNZ were using their platforms to promote the Governor’s efforts to spin things his way.
But as it is, surely the chart above points to something quite important. There is next to no difference in the average hourly wages of men and women in the under 24 age group, and even the gap in the 25-29 age group is probably barely statistically significant (look at how much the measured gaps in individual age categories can jump around from year to year). Not much sign of the much-vaunted conscious or unconscious discrimination. It seems quite likely that the subsequent gaps mostly reflect (the lagged effect of) intra-family choices about childcare etc, which have no obvious policy implications. In such a context neither a widening nor a narrowing of the gap is something to be welcomed; it just is.
But I guess that wouldn’t fit the desired political and bureaucratic narrative.