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Mothers paid 17 percent less than fathers

The estimated pay gap between mothers and fathers in New Zealand is 17 percent, Statistics New Zealand said today. This is almost $5 an hour on average.

Effect of motherhood on pay shows that, on average, fathers earn $28.30 an hour, while mothers make $23.40 an hour (a difference of $4.90). In contrast, the pay gap between women and men without dependent children is only 5 percent.

“The difference between the 17 percent gap in what mothers and fathers earn, and the 5 percent pay gap between men and women without children, is significant,” Insights manager Stephen Oakley says. The negative pay consequences for women with children is internationally referred to as the ‘motherhood penalty’.

Effect of motherhood on pay shows that despite a gap between the pay rates for mothers and fathers, on average parents make more than men and women without children.

“We found that parents generally get paid more than non-parents,” Mr Oakley said. For example, mothers with dependent children earn more than $23 an hour, on average, almost $1 an hour more than men and $2 more than women without children. Studying the reasons for this difference was not part of our analysis and requires further study.

According to international studies cited in the report released today, mothers may get less pay than fathers because many women spend time caring for children, which interrupts full-time paid work. Past New Zealand research suggests the effects of having children on mother’s pay rates may reflect breaks from work and reduced work experience. Although some mothers may trade higher wages for jobs that fit better with being a parent, there is no strong evidence for this in New Zealand. Overseas research notes there is also potential for employers to discriminate against mothers, either knowingly or not.

The report used Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) data collected for the June 2016 quarter. Because the HLFS is a sample survey, every reported figure is an estimate of the overall population. Our analysis is a snapshot of pay rates at a point in time so we do not draw conclusions about changes over time.

A parent is defined as someone with a dependent child living in the same house. A dependent child is a child aged under 15 years, or a child under 18 years who is not working full-time. Parents whose children have left home or live elsewhere are not included.

Hourly earnings by sex and parent status and gender pay gap, June 2016 quarter

Parent status/sex

Mean hourly earnings ($)

Gender pay gap (%)






22.50 (+/- 0.50)*



21.40 (+/- 0.50)*






28.30 (+/- 1.10)*



23.40 (+/- 0.60)*

*This indicates that mean hourly earnings may vary above/below the stated figure by the specified amount.

Note: For non-rounded figures see table 3 in the full report.

Source: Statistics New Zealand

The overall gender pay gap for the June 2016 quarter, measured using the Household Labour Force Survey, is 12 percent.


The motherhood penalty is not well studied in New Zealand, so Statistics NZ worked with the Ministry for Women to better understand it. More work is needed and we invite feedback on ideas for future research.

Contact: info@stats.govt.nz

More information

Effect of motherhood on pay – summary of results

Effect of motherhood on pay – methodology and full results (includes full tables)


For media enquiries contact: Statistics New Zealand: Stephen Oakley, Wellington 0508 525 525, info@stats.govt.nz
Ministry for Women: Kirsty Anderson, 04 916 582, kirsty.anderson@women.govt.nz

28 February 2017

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