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Empowering Change: Strategies to Overcome Pay Inequality for Pacific Women in New Zealand

Komiti Pasefika at Polyfest, Auckland 2023

New Zealand prides itself on being a fair and diverse country, but there’s a big problem hiding in plain sight: Pacific women aren’t getting paid as much as they should be. Despite efforts for fairness, Pacific women still face unfair pay in their jobs, showing that there are deeper issues that need to be fixed.

Studies show that Pacific women in New Zealand earn around 26.5% less than Pakeha men. This isn’t just a random number – it shows that there are big inequalities that exist in New Zealand. Pacific women often end up in lower-paying jobs like caregiving, hospitality, or retail, where there’s not much chance to move up. This unfairness is even worse because it’s harder for Pacific women to get into higher-paying industries.

When we turn our focus to Pacific countries themselves, the picture becomes even more complex.  In many Pacific nations, the pay gap for women is exacerbated by a myriad of factors, including limited access to education and economic opportunities, cultural norms that perpetuate gender roles, and systemic barriers that hinder women’s participation in the workforce. While these challenges are not unique to Pacific countries, they are often exacerbated by the region’s remote geography, small economies, and vulnerability to external shocks such as natural disasters and economic crises.

There are a few things we need to do to fix this. We need the Government to follow Australia’s lead and make ethnic and gender pay gap reporting mandatory. We also need to help Pacific women get better jobs by giving them more chances to learn new skills. But it’s not just about laws – we also need to change how people think about Pacific women and their roles. By working together to make these changes, we can make New Zealand a fairer and better place for everyone.

Caroline Mareko

Lealamanu’a Aiga Caroline Mareko

Talofa lava. I am a New Zealand born Samoan. I hail from the vilIages of Faleula and Vaiusu from my father’s side and the villages of Avao, Mulifanua and Lalomanu, Aleipata from my mother’s side.

I am currently the Community Services Senior Lead for He Whanau Manaaki o Tararua Kindergarten Association based in Wellington. I am a member of NZEI Te Riu Roa serving as the Komiti Pasefika Wellington Branch Secretary and convenes the NZEI Te Riu Roa Pasifika Leadership Caucus. I have served the CTU Komiti Pasefika as a Co-Convenor for over 10 years and involved in the Council of Trade Unions for over 25 years.

NZEI Te Riu Roa has supported me throughout my leadership role in CTU which I am grateful and privileged to serve Pacific workers in Aotearoa and be a representative voice of Pacific unionists on issues that matter in work or within communities.