Government ministry lukewarm on jobs for women strategy

The Government is pushing ahead with a significant, stand-alone women-in-jobs strategy, despite initial pushback from a major ministry.

Officials didn’t always see eye-to-eye on an action plan that would soon be taken to Cabinet, Newstalk ZB reports.

The blueprint, announced in May, was designed to help keep women in work in the face of job-market disruption.

Women have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially those already facing inequities. It’s estimated women earn nearly $900,000 less than men over a lifetime.

Minister-in-charge Jan Tinetti told ZB the plan was always a “no brainer” for her.

“This was absolutely something that needed to happen,” she said.

But in February, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment wasn’t convinced, saying it wanted to give priority to the most vulnerable women first.

A memo obtained under the Official Information Act shows although MBIE saw some value in a stand-alone strategy, it preferred integrating women in existing efforts, citing limited resources and funding.

The Women’s Ministry pushed against that, calling a dedicated approach “vital”, as the Government needed to tackle cross-system challenges.

The action plan will align with others for Māori, Pacific, disabled, youth, older workers, refugees, recent migrants and ethnic communities.

Despite being identified as a disadvantaged group regarding employment, women had so far been absent from the list of those plans.

In February, Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni wrote to ministerial leads to ensure they were targeting support towards women in each population group. That prompted questions on whether current actions were enough, or if a dedicated strategy was necessary.

Tinetti said that, ultimately, the existing system didn’t cover all women.

“Sometimes when you get those plans, and you’re trying to look at different demographics within those plans, the case for women is they may have become a bit of a tick box … you hope they don’t, but there is the fear that might happen.”

She also shed light on what went on behind the scenes, saying she put her case in conversations with key officials and ministers.

“I was never scared, in this instance, of MBIE’s advice and them saying where they came from and what they thought’, she said.

She told ZB the Ministry of Women was ready to go on the strategy, and once MBIE recognised that, everyone came on board.

Tinetti will report back to Cabinet before year’s end, with the strategy set to be rolled out in early 2022.

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