Monday, March 8, 2010

Womens' Rights Slipping In New Zealand

On International Women's Day we thought we'd do a round up of just three issues that impact on women in present day New Zealand and look to see what progress, if any, is being made with them. What we found is that women's affairs are going backwards:

Pay Gaps
New Zealand has had a gender pay gap between men and women of about 12 per cent median hourly rates for the past decade (source) The Human Rights Commission's annual scrutiny of how Crown Entities are reporting on their good employer obligations shows a lack of visibility given to pay equity despite a significant gender pay gap in the health sector.

"The 21 DHBs, who employ around 80 per cent women, undertook pay and employment equity reviews and developed response plans with staff from January 2007 to April 2008. One DHB reported a pay gap of 31 percent on full time equivalent earnings" (source)
"Five undertook full reviews and 16 were involved in a verification process. However, the Commission has found no DHB reported ongoing work in relation to response plans in their last annual reports. Only half made reference to having an equitable transparent and gender neutral remuneration system.
“It is disappointing to see a slowdown in commitment to closing the gender pay gap in the health sector. We hope staff and managers will find the monitoring tool useful to pick up the pace”.
The Commission has urged the Government to set a minimum target of halving the gender pay gap by 2012 and eliminating it by 2020." (source as above)

"The government's Pay and Equity Unit was closed down because it had completed its work when Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson said the unit still had 20 pay equity investigations to complete when she axed it." (source)

Meanwhile the pay gap between New Zealand and Australia continues to widen.

"Phil Goff said a recent survey showed that 78 per cent of Australian companies are planning to lift salary levels this year compared to New Zealand companies where just 55 per cent are planning to do the same. In Australia 55 per cent of firms intend to increase staff levels, double the percentage in New Zealand.

“The only area where New Zealand has caught up with Australia is unemployment. Unfortunately our unemployment rate is well ahead of our trans-Tasman neighbours,” Phil Goff said.

“At 7.3 per cent our unemployment is running nearly 2 per cent higher than Australia’s. 168,000 Kiwis are now unemployed (many of them women, see below) and nothing the Prime Minister said in his opening address to Parliament is going to change that." (source)

In  a three month period more than 15,000 New Zealand women lost their jobs. In the quarter to September 2009 almost two thirds of the people who became jobles were women (source)

Sexual Assault and Abuse
The ACC Sensitive claims 'clinical pathway' policy whereby women will be required to disclose an assault and then wait for the wheels of beaurocrasy to process their claim before they can proceed with counselling, has been condemned as clinically unsound,contrary to ACC’s statutory requirement to provide treatment that conforms “to best clinical practice” and discriminates against women directly and indirectly

Under the changes ACC want to make it harder to get funding by making a diagnosis of mental illness a requirement. Furthermore they propose limiting funding to only sixteen sessions of treatment (source)

The National Council of Women of New Zealand has said it is opposed to the change because:
* Counsellors, Therapists, Social Workers, and currently, Psychotherapists are no longer qualified to provide ACC assessments for subsidised treatment for victims of sexual abuse and/or sex crimes.
* There are insufficient Psychologists and Psychiatrists in New Zealand to provide the necessary assessments, so the period of waiting before ACC subsidised treatment can be approved could be as long as nine months.
* The Psychologists and Psychiatrists who are qualified to undertake assessments do not necessarily have a history or relevant work experience in the field of sexual abuse.
* If you undergo a DSM IV assessment by a Psychologist or Psychiatrist, it will be determined that you have experienced mental illness as a result of trauma. This will have implications in the future when seeking assistance in terms of his/her mortgage, access to insurances, and opportunities for employment.
* There are no regulations within the law that require those seeking subsidised counselling to be classified as having an illness.
* Those working in the sexual violence field are deeply concerned that ACC is encouraging professionals to breach the Code of Ethics.
* The clinical pathway is discouraging women from seeking recovery via the ACC subsidised counselling system.
* The maximum number of sessions that ACC will approve at any one time is 16; this replaces the previously set figure of 30 sessions.
* The ACC sensitive claims clinical pathway discriminates against women directly and indirectly." (source)

For more statistics on issues that impact on women and children please see our NZ Facts of Life pages which includes data on teen pregnancy rates, youth suicide and the shocking statistic that in NZ only 9% of sexual offences get reported to police, and of those only 13% of rapes resulted in convictions. The median age of victims is 23 and Europeans account for 61% of the victims - See 'Conviction rate in sex cases'

There is also an estimate that the social cost of sexual violence in NZ is $1.2 billion per year. It is NZ's most costly crime

We may be adding to this post as the day progresses.

Today's posts - click here

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