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Motherhood still comes at a significant price for women – New Zealand

As New Zealand’s Prime Minister, the most famous mother-to-be, is due to give birth in less than a month, (after which she plans to head back to work and her prime ministerial salary) research released today shows that motherhood generally still comes at a significant price for women.

Dr Isabelle Sin, Fellow at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research and co-author of the new paper says “New Zealand is similar to the rest of the world in that the gender pay gap is larger among parents than people without children,”.

“Across our sample, the hourly wage difference was 5.7 percent between similar men and women without children, but 12.5 percent between men and women who were parents,” said Dr Sin.

“The impact of parenthood is especially noticeable for women who were in a high-income bracket before giving birth and who returned to work quickly after becoming parents,” said Dr Sin.

“Prior to parenthood, these women experienced rapid income growth–they were on a trajectory to be very high earners. After they returned to work, often with reduced hours, their earnings were lower and grew at a crawl. This dampening of the income growth of top-earning women helps explain why relatively few women appear in the highest income brackets in New Zealand. A fast return to employment did have some benefits, though: their hourly wages didn’t fall as much as the wages of their slower-returning colleagues.”

When men became parents, their hourly wages weren’t significantly affected. Women, on the other hand, faced 4.4 percent lower hourly wages than they could have expected if they hadn’t had children.

“Our research shows that parenthood exacerbates pre-parenthood gender wage gaps and this seems closely connected to women working less after they have children. I believe it will be hard for New Zealand to achieve gender equality in the labour market until it is just as common for a dad to stay home and take care of his children as it is a mum. Hopefully Jacinda and Clarke’s example will help spur cultural change in this direction,” said Dr Sin.

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