AWC comment on The Women’s Employment Action Plan 2022

Posted: December 9, 2022Categories: ,

AWC comment on The Women’s Employment Action Plan 2022

Te Mahere Whai Mahi Wāhine Women’s Employment Action Plan Comments for Manatū Wāhine Ministry for Women

July 2022

1. All policy should be developed first and foremost for wāhine Māori

• As tangata whenua, as per te Tiriti; for example, employment programmes should be “By wāhine Māori for wāhine Māori.”
• As a group including women particularly likely to be most in need

Every major policy overhaul (child care, fair pay, social insurance, welfare, housing) should be designed with wāhine Māori in mind (taking into account characteristic whānau care responsibilities, education, employment sectors, income etc).
For example, New Zealand Income Insurance has in mind, as its default worker, someone who is able-bodied with no dependents who is salaried fulltime on office hours: characteristics more likely to be white and male than anything else. The rest of us require special concessions in this paradigm rather than our experience being normalised. NZII is not what a system looks like if it’s centring a wahine Māori raising 3 kids on her own with 2 parttime jobs equalling 60 hours a week and a disabled parent to look after.

2. Roe vs Wade overturn illustrates the importance of future-proofing

• With its gender-related aims, Te Mahere Whai Mahi Wāhine offers opportunities to socialise Manatū Wāhine’s intersectional policy development tool “Bringing gender in”, to show its usefulness in making effective policy, and recording policy development for future evaluation.

• In future, we would like to see “Bringing gender in” embedded and mandated as BAU for policy development across government.

3. Action required: welfare continues to fail women

• Te Mahere Whai Mahi Wāhine suggests the MSD is overhauling the welfare system. In reality, in the last five years, there have been only a few changes, and structural injustices and inequalities continue. The community have been advocating for a new system for over 40 years. Why is progress so slow? The country needs bold and swift action.

• Families need regular, reliable support now. On average, official poverty measures are only reducing by around 6,000 kids per year. At that rate, even the smallest (most severe) poverty measure will take another 25 years to eliminate.

• We were disappointed that people receiving the (non-inflation-adjusted) Winter Energy Payment were ineligible for the $350 cost-of-living support when many of them are among those struggling the most. We are particularly concerned about sole mothers and their families, particularly those who are looking after disabled
children or who are disabled themselves.

• Benefits incomes are inadequate. We acknowledge the (long delayed) recent benefit increases, but they are not enough, particularly with a growing cost of living crisis. Significantly raise core income support immediately, so that people accessing income support are able to live with dignity.

• We acknowledge that Child Support won’t be clawed back by the State for benefit recipients anymore – but again the slow implementation is hard to comprehend.

o In addition, child support (at least up to a generous ceiling) should not be considered income for benefit eligibility criteria. Without this provision, the State is disincentivising women from working parttime, with all the positive emotional, social and professional benefits that go with that, as well as the financial benefits.

4. Normalising childcare by men can reduce the motherhood penalty

• It is positive that Te Mahere Whai Mahi Wāhine offers a systemic analysis of the normalised separation of parenting roles by gender. However, the plan could go further to acknowledge and respond to the negative impact and restrictions of these gendered parenting roles.

• In particular, the Government should prioritise enabling fathers to do more parenting such as:

    •  ringfencing paid parental leave for all working non-birthing
    •  increasing weekly PPL entitlements to realistic levels; and
    • ensuring PPL is not linked to time spent working for current

• It may be useful to highlight that ringfenced leave for non-birthing parents type of leave increases gender justice: It increases birthing parents’ attachment to the workforce

    • Depending on policy settings, it can also result in non-birthing men continuing to do care work once they are back in the workforce –which reduces the huge motherhood penalty.

• It is important that Government narrative as well as policy normalises and supports paid workers other than women in family caring. For example, Te Mahere Whai Mahi Wāhine talks about need for flexible working conditions shared by all women – but all paid workers share that need, not just women.

5. “Achieving Broader Outcomes from Government Procurement” needs to explicitly prioritise women

• It is positive to see in Te Mahere Whai Mahi Wāhine that Manatū Wahine will be monitoring outcomes of Achieving Broader Outcomes from Government Procurement. We are concerned that the four priority outcomes for Achieving Broader Outcomes do not currently include gender justice, despite Achieving Broader Outcomes being explicitly promoted as assisting women: “Cabinet last week agreed on a new rule that when procuring goods or services, 138 departments and agencies must consider how they can create quality jobs, particularly for displaced workers and traditionally disadvantaged groups such as Māori, Pasifika, people with disabilities and women.” (16 Sept 2020). The priority outcomes must include gender justice (and positive outcomes for
disabled people) including:

    •  using examples of businesses owned by wāhine Māori, Pacific women
      and women overall
    • using apprenticeships for women as an example of how the domestic
      construction sector workforce can increase in size and skill level.

6. Pay Transparency – Urgency Required

• It is positive to see “Improve Pay Transparency” listed as an immediate
action, and that Te Mahere Whai Mahi Wāhine notes this is a priority area for the Human Rights Commission and for the National Council of Women.

• We are concerned with the lack of detail regarding this action, but look
forward to a comprehensive plan being unveiled and promptly implemented,
including new legislation as required, in the next few months.