Public Service gender pay gaps

The gender pay gap in the Public Service has continued to decrease. As at 30 June 2021, the average salary was $92,600 for men and $84,600 for women, up 3.0% for men since 30 June 2020 and up 4.2% for women. This means the gender pay gap decreased by 1.0 percentage point to 8.6%.

Contributing to the decline in the gender pay gap is the record high female share of senior leaders, at 53.5%. The gender pay gap for senior leaders is 4.6% for 2021, down from 5.7% in 2020, This is the lowest senior leader gender pay gap since data was first collected in 2001.

Analysis of the Workforce data has generated the following insights:

  • Pay gaps are lower when people in more equivalent roles are being compared. For this reason, gender pay gaps tend to be lower for specific occupations than the overall gap. For example, the gender pay gap for senior leaders is 4.6% for 2021. This is lower than for all management roles (8.2%) and the Public Service as a whole (8.6%).
  • Age groups under 40 years have gender pay gaps of under 5%. Gender pay gaps increase with age, starting from 2.6% for those aged 20 to 24 and rising to 12.5% for those aged 60 to 65.
  • Gender pay gaps vary greatly among departments, ranging from 24.5% in the Ministry of Defence to -2.3% in Oranga Tamariki (a negative gender pay gap means women were paid more than men). The Ministry of Defence’s gender pay gap has been decreasing substantially in recent years (it was 46.4% in 2016).
  • Differences in the gender pay gap across departments are generally driven by the extent to which departments have gender imbalances in their workforces. For example, some traditionally male fields (such as IT or procurement) tend to be highly-paid, whereas lower paid clerical and contact centre roles tend to be female dominated. This occupational segregation – women being more likely to be working in lower-paid occupations – is a key driver of the gender pay gap for many departments.
  • Even within the same occupational groups, there are compositional differences between the genders in terms of seniority and experience. For example, women make up 62% of policy roles at the advisor level in the Public Service in 2021, but only 53% of principal advisor positions (although this was up from 48% last year).
  • Gender pay gaps tend to rise with tenure within an organisation. For example, for those with tenure of 2–5 years the pay gap is 6.3%, rising to 10.4% for 5–10 years and 8.5% for 10 years plus.

Gender pay gap comparison

The Public Service Commission has reported the Public Service gender pay gap using average (mean) pay since 2000. This differs to Stats NZ’s approach of using median pay when reporting the gender pay gap for the entire workforce.1 Median pay is the middle amount of pay earned – half of employees earn less and half earn more. Median pay better reflects the pay a typical employee receives. On the other hand, mean pay better reflects employees with very low or very high pay, and the fact that women are overrepresented in the low paid groups and underrepresented in high paid groups.

In 2021, the Public Service gender pay gap using median pay was 5.6%. This slight decrease from 5.8% in 2020 follows a large fall from 10.7% in 2018.

The gender pay gap using median pay for the entire workforce, as reported by Stats NZ, was 9.1% in 2021, similar to the last three years (9.6% in 2018, 9.3% in 2019 and 9.5% in 2020). The graph below shows:

  • how the gender pay gap measured using median salaries have declined over time for both Public Service (down from 16.7% in 2000) and the overall New Zealand workforce (down from 14.0% in 2000)
  • the gender pay gap for the overall New Zealand workforce has plateaued in the last few years
  • that the Public Service gender pay gap has dropped substantially below the New Zealand workforce gender pay gap, from parity in 2018, to 60% in 2021.

Note that the Public Service gender pay gap using median pay is more volatile over time than that using mean pay. The structured nature of pay for many parts of the Public Service workforce, with large numbers of employees receiving the same pay, are driving this volatility in gender pay gaps using median pay.


1Statistics New Zealand (2014). Measuring the gender pay gap. Available from

Pay by gender and ethnicity

The graph below shows that in the Public Service men are paid more on average than women in each ethnic group, and Europeans are paid more on average than other ethnicities. Pacific women and Pacific men have the lowest average salaries in the Public Service, but they received the largest pay increases of $4,000 (5.6%) and $3,700 (5.4%) respectively. Overall, the largest percent increases went to the lowest paid groups.

Ethnic pay gaps

The Māori pay gap (the difference between average pay for Māori and non-Māori employees) has fallen from 9.3% in 2020 to 8.3% in 2021. The Pacific pay gap has fallen from 19.5% to 17.9%. The Asian pay gap has also fallen, from 12.8% in 2020 to 11.6% in 2021.

Like the gender pay gap, ethnic pay gaps can relate to occupational segregation or the occupation profile of a particular ethnic group. Māori, Pacific and Asian public servants are over-represented in lower-paid occupation groups.

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