Prue Hyam Champions Women’s Rights

Prue Hyman

(Much) more work needed to bring equality

By Prue Hyman 

Each year I write about IWD – which is on March 8th. This year there is something to celebrate, with the National Government finding it at least politically expedient to support the first reading of Jan Logie’s domestic violence Bill.

In fact, the whole of Parliament supported it to go to Select Committee, with Jan saying it would help save lives and better protect survivors of domestic violence.

10 days for victims

The Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Bill would give ‘victims’ 10 days’ paid leave to help them move house, attend court hearings and consult with lawyers.

Jan said at first reading that “half of New Zealand employers will have a staff member who’s affected by family violence.

Work colleagues are often the only people who know about the abuse, and employers need to have some tangible guidance about what to do to help. This is a real opportunity to make a difference.”

It’s a small step compared with the prevention and education measures necessary to reduce domestic violence, mainly perpetrated by men against women and children, but an important one.

Also important is for the police and judiciary to take such violence more seriously, as they have started to do.

Govt. support vital

Let’s hope that the Select Committee listening to women’s stories will report the bill back favourably and that Government will support it all the way, rather than veto it on cost grounds.

This is their normal kneejerk reaction – hence they did not allow the extension of parental leave to 26 weeks, the international norm. And yet they blithely spend vast sums of money in many areas – with road building an obvious example, where vested interests and corporate power accord with government predelictions.

Kristine Bartlett’s fight for justice

Probably also subject to the cost bogey is a decent offer in the Kristine Bartlett/ Terranova case.

Readers may remember that the latest episode in the pay equity issue has been dragging on since about 2012 when this case started its tortuous process through the courts.

The government, scared of the courts giving ‘too high’ a settlement, established two tripartite working parties, one on the particular caring work area and one on general pay equity principles.

The second led to principles which have been accepted, although they go very little further than the 1972 Equal Pay Act itself. But they do contain some mechanisms which will hopefully be useful.

Legislative amendments are to be introduced this year and women’s groups will be watching them carefully to ensure they can lead to real progress, for example on the establishment of sensible comparator groups, rather than further delays and obfuscation.

But we still await an actual offer in the Bartlett case. Again this needs to go further than just pay parity with the public sector caring workforce who are paid better than their private sector equivalents, but still not enough.

The carers who have been waiting so long are likely to be reasonably happy with almost any offer, as their need for an increase is so great.

What true equity means

But true pay equity needs to recognize the undervaluation of the considerable skills, effort, responsibilities and difficult working conditions observed in such work.

Anyone who actually reads Kristine Bartlett’s job descriptions and responsibilities will like me, if they are honest, evaluate the work as worth far more than most jobs they do themselves!

Let’s really celebrate International Women’s Day with properly valuing such caring work.

My new book launches this week

And I can’t resist finishing by sneaking in a personal plug for my new book which deals with this and many other areas of feminist economics. Entitled ‘Hopes Dashed? The Economics of Gender Inequality’. It covers the 23 year period since my previous book on these topics.

While acknowledging some progress, it concludes sadly that there is much still to do – the work of feminism is far from over.

I look at the fate of lower paid women and the impact of class and ethnicity. Admittedly there are gains in education and a greater range of jobs for women, but the trends are also towards individualism, lower unionisation, and less collective bargaining work against lower paid women.

There are also ongoing inequities towards sole parents, mostly mothers, whose work is both ignored and undervalued.

And I argue that greater equality for women in the labour market would benefit not only women but also most men and children.

The book also critiques orthodox economics and asks how appropriate and useful are our traditional approaches to measuring its health – not very.

I argue that climate change, environmental issues, and population dynamics are among the issues which demand radical change in New Zealand and worldwide.
You are welcome to come and help me celebrate the launch of the book at Vic Books, Rutherford House, Wellington on Thursday 16 March at 5.30 for 6. See http://bwb.co.nz/books/hopes-dashed for more information or to buy the book.