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The 1998 New South Wales Pay Equity Inquiry demonstrates some limitations of dominant theoretical approaches to the undervaluation of work in female-dominated occupations and industries. Campaigns for equal pay could be enriched with a firmer understanding of the complexity of caring and emotional labour in women’s paid human service occupations such as nursing, hairdressing and childcare. Such understandings can help redefine skill and worth so as more thoroughly to recognise and reward interpersonal work performed in female-dominated service occupations. Rejecting common moral and economic objections to placing monetary values on these traditionally feminine and ostensibly ‘non-economic’ activities is another ingredient for the historic achievement of gender pay equity.