sign up log in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Mind the gap: New research identifies gender pay inequality as primary cause behind 36% difference in KiwiSaver contributions for men and women

Kiwisaver data / news
Mind the gap: New research identifies gender pay inequality as primary cause behind 36% difference in KiwiSaver contributions for men and women

New research out of Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission shows a 36% difference in the yearly contributions that men and women put into KiwiSaver – even though they contribute the same percentage of their salaries on average.

The New Zealand Policy Research Institute at AUT was commissioned by the government's retirement agency to carry out research using newly available information in Stats NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), which allows KiwiSaver contribution rates to be investigated from April 2019.

The research report, which was released on Wednesday by the Retirement Commission, examined the characteristics of KiwiSaver members’ to understand how contribution behaviour varied across gender, age, ethnicity and income levels.

The research indicates that this 36% gap is primarily caused by the gender pay gap rather than a difference in contribution rates. Meaning women are losing out on KiwiSaver returns because they’re earning less than men, not because they’re contributing less into their KiwiSavers.

The research found that because women are often in part-time jobs and take on unpaid caregiving roles, this widens the KiwiSaver contribution gap further.

According to Stats New Zealand, the gender pay gap in NZ was at 8.6% as of June 2023 last year although the Ministry for Women says the gap is much wider for wāhine Māori, Pacific and Asian women. 

During a preview discussion of the research findings last week, Te Ara Ahunga Ora Policy Lead Dr Michelle Reyers said the 36% gap found in the research boils down to looking at the gender pay gap over a instead of by the hour which is how Stats NZ gets its 8.6% gender pay gap figure.

“What we've done in this data is we've seen the cumulative effect over a full year period. And during that time, we know that women generally would have taken more time out of paid work. So this is an average figure. So it's going to take into account the average career or the average working hours of women as well,” she said.

“We often talk about the gender pay gap. We're quite excited that it's under 10%. It seems to be falling. But actually when we look at a whole year's perspective and the impact on KiwiSaver contributions, we're seeing that there is still a mark between the outcomes for men and women on average.”

The research also found that pay disparities were reflected further when it came to the ethnic pay gap in KiwiSaver and were “mirrored in lower KiwiSaver contribution amounts” for Māori and Pasifika.

The research also found that ethnic wage disparities were reflected in reduced KiwiSaver contributions for Māori and Pasifika.

“If you are Māori or Pacific, you are likely to have around $1,500 less contributed into your KiwiSaver account annually than a European person,” The commission says.

This is even though Māori have the second highest average employee contribution rate of the ethnic groups reported in the research – despite having the lowest average income.

“So again, [this is] showing us that this is a story of structural inequities rather than anything that individuals are doing incorrectly,” Reyers said last week.

Less than 10%

Last June, there were approximately 3.3 million KiwiSaver members in New Zealand. Reyers said data from Inland Revenue indicated that 2.3 million members contributed to their KiwiSaver during the financial year ending in June 2023.

She said that the current KiwiSaver settings around automatic enrollment and opt outs were “working really well”.

KiwiSaver enrollment numbers are especially high for those in the age groups like 25 to 34 – which has an enrollment number of 97% – and the 35 to 44 age group which isn’t far behind at 95%.

“So a real success story for a voluntary scheme,” she said.

The average employee contribution rate was about 3.7%.

However the research found that less than one out of ten employees have an employer contribution rate of above 3%. 

“So over 90% of employers are contributing at the minimum rate of 3%, very few are actually contributing at that higher rate,” Reyers said.

“In this picture what we're seeing is employees are pulling their weight and trying to contribute more than that minimum, but we're not seeing necessarily that employers are doing more than is required by law, which might not be a surprise for some of us.”

Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson said on Wednesday that the Retirement Commission currently isn’t seeing employers show the initiative the commission would like to see.

“One in three employees already contribute at a rate higher than the 3% minimum. Unfortunately, less than 10% of employers contribute more than the compulsory 3%, and almost half include KiwiSaver contributions in total earnings for some or all of their employees, which can disincentivise employees to contribute,” she says.

“If we want to see change, I think we need to see a more proactive attitude across the board from employers. We all have a stake in New Zealand’s future and there are concerns that people may not be saving enough for retirement, so we need to be taking practical steps to tackle these issues.” 

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


 How did such a dumb article get posted in interest? Surely this should be marked as advertising.

First it says that somehow it's a problem that people who make less money get less kiwisaver which is a percengage of income. Then it tries to say employers should be fixing this?

You want to work only 4 days a week instead of 5? Sorry but I can't let you do that, you better work your ass off or you're fired!

Why would you voluntarily contribute more to kiwisaver when you can have access to your own money instead? Why would you not negotiate a better salary instead of a higher employer matching contribution even if there is marginal tax difference. Kiwisaver is not equal to retirement. It's a scheme and family is more important.

Background reading: Thomas Sowell: The Quest for Cosmic Justice.

These articles need to DEI already. 


You are not being very kind, but I agree on your general observations.

Kiwisaver is not equal to retirement savings, in fact, it's not even worth to be part of retirement savings. think about it, why would you tie you money for decades when the only benefit for it is a $521 tax credit from government?  

ironically, the article clearly not focusing on kiwisaver or retirement but gender pay gap, or eve racial pay gap.  pay gap is real, but link kiwisaver to pay gap, what's the point? 


You are harsh, but correct. This is an argument that panders to the identitarians who see everything from the cultural perspective of race, sex, gender and whatever. It begins with women, then inevitably moves to Māori and Pasifika. After them we need to consider the transgendered, and then the disabled. And don't forget the disabled, ethnic-minority, transgendered and disabled woman who is likely to be earning less than, and therefore contributing to KiwiSaver less than, all of the above.

KiwiSaver is a nice-to-have for those who have the discretionary income to do so. It is impossible for those who don't (which may include some blokes by the way).

The real answer already exists. It's called NZ Superannuation. Yet NZ Super is not enough to live on for the beneficiaries who really need it: retired jobless renters with no assets and no other income.

The single-person-living-alone benefit for 2023-24 was a net $496 a week.

Massey University's FinEd Centre reckoned last year that the person on $496 a week really needed a net $826 a week for a no-frills 'metro' retirement (presumably in Auckland) or $690 a week in the provinces. Both much more than that $496 a week.

For the year beginning in April 2024 that $496 a week rises to $519, so presumably those two Massey estimated living costs will rise from $826 to $865 for the 'metro' existence, and from $690 to $723 for the 'provincial'. After tax.

The single-person-living-alone weekly after-tax benefit needs at least to be increased from $519 to $723 a week after tax, the presumed 'provincial no frills', for a minimally dignified existence. That would still leave the retired renter struggling to pay the bills, especially in Auckland. But it would help.

We need to stop thinking of NZ Superannuation as an entitlement for everyone who reaches 65, and instead recognise it as a social welfare benefit to spare have-nots from living their final years on the streets in poverty.

Yet we are told that nearly 50,000 beneficiaries of NZ Superannuation are collecting $1.1 billion a year in benefits while also getting more than $100,000 each from jobs, investments and private pensions.

To keep Super both universally available and affordable, those who have no need of it need to be discouraged from signing up for it. That will require reintroducing some form of the surtax or surcharge on other income that was abolished in 1998. And that is something that can only be accomplished by the major parties, National and Labour, agreeing to do it together.

Make NZ Super fit for purpose, and leave KiwiSaver, stripped of state subsidy, as the icing on the cake for those who can afford to contribute to it.…



Is it me or is there something dystopian that central authorities are allowing bodies to investigate our Kiwisaver accounts to prove a point on equity without our consent.  


Imagine if somebody uploaded the data to some AI tool to get some cool insights.......


"People who pay less into scheme end up having less in the scheme shocker... more news at 6"

Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission sounds juicy and ready for some "fiscal conscience"


women are losing out on KiwiSaver returns because they’re earning less than men, not because they’re contributing less into their KiwiSavers.

That's simply not true.  If Women contribute the same to KiwiSaver as men, they will get the same KiwiSaver returns.

According to Stats New Zealand, the gender pay gap in NZ was at 8.6% as of June 2023 

The research indicates that this 36% gap is primarily caused by the gender pay gap rather than a difference in contribution rates

Maths and logic are not the author's strengths, it seems.


Poorly worded at the very least.  "While women contribute the same % of income to kiwisaver, due to women's lower income they accumulate less wealth in their kiwisaver over their working lives" is a better way to say what I think the author meant. 


te ara ahunga ora is another govt ministry that needs to go - just another control agency with overpaid bureaucrats providing advice that is widely available in NZ already 


Another hack job rolling out the fully debunked "gender pay gap"

The authors of these articles know what they are claiming is false, just like anyone who stops and takes 5 minutes to think about it. 

In a capitalist economy if women were really cheaper to employ, for the same work output, then men would be paid less or out of a job. Entire corporations would be made up of women. 


The authors of these articles know what they are claiming is false

The problem is that DEI has become a full-fledged occupation at leadership levels within corporates and NZ public sector. This means people are getting paid bucketloads to chug out the rhetoric that the system is inherently biased along racial and gender lines, much like any other lobby group.


Your last sentence is key. Surely if hiring women (or any other marginalized group that isn't 'stale male and pale' crusties) was the secret to lower wage bills, then you'd see every company with the ability to do basic self-serving mathematics hiring only women/minorities because it means lower costs. 

I think there are definitely some considerations with issues like women typically being less comfortable negotiating than men.

I'll use my wife as an example. She is a very hard worker - far more conscientious than I and deserving of every penny she earns and then more - but on numerous occasions she has missed out on something from a raise to even 'entitlements' with respect to holiday/overtime/whatever because she simply hates feeling like she is confronting somebody or risking coming across as rude. On the other hand, I have enjoyed a decent career/business life so far just on the back of being comfortable asking for more, and not being afraid to ruffle a few feathers. My father drilled into my head from as early as I can remember that 'you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate'. 

There is also the whole 'boys club' mentality that is definitely pervasive in some companies/organisations (although I have on two separate occasions been the only male in the 'girls club' and that was hardly fun either). I imagine that would have more of a hand in women potentially not receiving promotions as frequently as men, as opposed to women being paid less for exactly the same job/work. 


What a terrible way of analysing data! Through a gender and race lens.

There are many other ways.

eg. Families where the mans kiwisaver will be put into the pool of wealth once he retires.

eg. The ultimate families kiwisaver wealth taking into account that men die earlier on average. 

eg Gay couples where both are men, have no children and therefore could well be very well off. In fact couples with no children would be better off than otherwise.

eg. Down South white people do not get paid at all well. ie Geographically.

The list goes on.


Yes, I always note that wealth or income transfers between genders are ignored. $481 million in child support, an average of around $6500 per receiver, 90% of receivers female, has got to plug the gap quite a bit.  Not to mention wealth transfer upon separation.

I also wonder how so many of the luxury consumer markets, fashion, beauty, cosmetics, hairdressers, generally market towards females.  How can that be a profitable strategy if women have so little money.


Yes, it's all about how you want to spin it. In some way, it reminds me of the article that concluded that teenage pregnancies fell off quite dramatically as the mothers reached the age of 20.


The issue always seems to boil down to some simplistic view of the system being “inherently racist and sexist”, and the fixes for that lies in legislated cultural reform, it’s so predictable but so real it’s actually terrifying.

How about we look at the decades of poor tax policy that allowed the majority of investment capital to flow into a single unproductive asset class, that resulted in New Zealand having one of the lowest productivity rates in the whole OECD, that makes it impossible to buy a house and even harder to find a company that can afford to pay you to meet that new living standard? 

If anything is to blame here it’s the generations of poor Government tax policy influencing our ability to grow our economy into something more diverse and productive, if you want higher wages you need higher profits, for more profits you need greater productivity, for more productivity… you need a Government that isn’t beholden to left wing social warriors and property ponzi masters.

Basically we are screwed.


If you really want to be depressed, try googling and reading the Retirement Commissioners annual report. Full of interesting information......they emitted 44.15 tonnes of CO2 in 22/23, as opposed to 31.01 tonnes the previous year. (There's a new department to be formed, to plant trees in Lampton Quay.)

The staff is a mere 36, 81% answering to "she/her".  A photo of "team" reveals a good balance of ethnicities, with a few lonely white males in the back row.

All this at a cost of some $10m, not a great deal in the scheme of State expenditure, but one does wonder what the total cost of the burgeoning number of "commissions" might be? And after all their main general function is to give advice to Parliament which is independent of the Government of the day. In essence, they form a similar ( but supposedly expert) role to that of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition. And their resulting effect, it seems, is to reduce the role of the Opposition to carry out informed and constructive analysis of legislation and Cabinet policies.

We seem to be paying big bucks to two parties to do the same job.




These analyses fall over so easily. My wife technically contributes nothing to her Kiwisaver; I put in a minimal amount (~$24) from my income each week to make her eligible for the government contribution each year. She's not working because we decided that we'd rather have a one-income family where she is able to focus on the children. It's a massive sacrifice financially for the whole household, but one we're happy to make. My Kiwisaver balance is much larger than hers, but when we retire both will be common property. So yes, there's a "contribution gap", but it does not have sexist outcomes.

More laconically, people tend to live in households.


I find it surprising that research has been able to identify contributors by ethnic group and gender. I am pretty sure I have never provided my provider nor IRD with these metrics.

Makes me question just how much personal data IRD hold on one.


oh well, remember Labour had put together a Wong report counting how many Auckland house buyers 'Chinese sounding names' and pin them to 'Foreign Buyers'? 

Woke driven people always has ways to prove their points, and missing the points entirely too. 


Another pestiferous article. 


There is a lot to ponder here.

1.   Income and thus Kiwsaver balances between couples is pooled.

2.  The issue is about pay rates, not Kiwisaver.

3.   There are no Kiwisaver profiles, contributions or balances, that are the same as anybody else.  All very individual.   So lower pays in some areas of Auckland will show up that this suburb has different Kiwisaver balances than anther suburb.

Is that something we should worry about, similar to this article.

All that said I am a big - big advocate of Kiwisaver.  It's sad governments have not developed it as they could have over 20 years now.

Employers:  (I have been one)  There should be very clear requirements and clarity about their contribution.   For example it should be clear the KS contribution is extra on top of the salary.  Currently some do, some don't.

Just one tweak of many that should be done.


NZ - a country pre-occupied with finding gender and ethnicity as the root cause of every data variance that exists. 



Have they adjusted the gap for the fact that should a married couple divorce, the blokes higher (on average) Kiwisaver balance will be split down the middle? 



It this article totally ignores what happens upon divorce or after Kiwisaver withdrawal. Which are huge failings.

These factors would be trickier to analyse and which on average would not support the narrative. These are the reasons why they are not included. 


Who says you need to be married anymore?, same rules apply if you live with a partner for 2-3yrs or more under de facto laws...

I know my ex is claiming half of 'our' kiwisaver funds as a 'relationship asset' which results in a reduction of mine

Welcome to the wonderful world of family law...  which is more like a C-Grade Fiction Dystopian Apololypse if you ask me...

Especially for men who earn more or who want to be involved with their kids


Sadly, the comments thus far suggest that noble attributes that our forebears had, like introspection and fairness, are now quite rare in NZ.


So a doctor should be paid the same as a retail worker....


Dangerous waters here, but I'll leave a comment anyway.

I think we would all benefit, and this type of discussion could prove much more constructive, if we were to stop referring to the 'gender pay gap' and start referring to the 'gender earnings gap'.


Overseas the gender pay gap has been disputed, where women under the age of 25-30 actually earn more than their male counterparts and then it reverses as they get older and more women enter motherhood before hitting menopause which puts their career on hold which may explain some of the gap.

I'm not sure the comparisons or data is clear or specific enough... some of this disparity in income could be from choices in profession where women have higher representation vs. men i.e. education or healthcare vs. construction or more dangerous roles chosen by men etc

I think generalised statements such as 'there is a gender gap - therefore its unequal - and therefore we need to close it' using a linear if-then logic need to be challenged

Be more specific and less lazy Instead of using 'averages' which are generally 'average' at best and often useless in practice

if there's a problem generalising it doesn't help, being specific allows you to find the root cause and fix it, which actually solves problems or at the very least pin points where it is...