Gender gap widening in Slovak labour market

Even the best-educated women earn only three-quarters as much as male counterparts, researchers find..

WOMEN in Slovakia are more likely to have university degrees than men, are more interested in improving their IT skills, and are more likely to be willing to make concessions to keep their jobs. At the same time, they hold just 30 percent of the best jobs as managers, executives and legislators, and earn, on average, 27 percent less than men. Deepening of the gender gap in Slovakia’s labour market over the past decade, even as the European Union has urged that the gender gap be narrowed. Whereas the average gross monthly wage for men in Slovakia grew by 51 percent in nominal terms between 1997 and 2006, it rose only 47 percent for women. The already deep wage gap between men and women thus widened by five percentage points over that time.

Moreover, following an economic slowdown in Slovakia from 1999-2001, the employment rate of Slovak men rose 7.4 percentage points by 2007 to 68.4 percent, while the rate for women climbed only 1.6 percentage points to 53.1 percent. Not only are men earning more than women, they are also working more – and the gap is growing.

It is interesting that even the fact that women are generally more educated has not reduced the gender pay gap. O the contrary, the greatest gender differences in remuneration [33 percent] were seen between the most educated women and men. Nevertheless, the gender pay gap is universal in nature and concerns all categories of women and men in the labour market. Regardless of ownership sector, economic sector, wage group, education or age, the hourly and monthly wages of women are always lower than those of men.

While the Slovak Republic officially subscribes to the principle of equal opportunities for women and men, most of these resolutions remain largely on paper. The inequality of opportunity between men and women on the labour market has several consequences. First, because women earn lower salaries during their working years – overall, for example, twice as many women (38 percent) as men (17 percent) earn less than Sk10,000 a month – they in turn receive lower pensions when they retire. And they retire about five years earlier than men, meaning that they receive less, earlier. The vicious circle is completed by the fact that women outlive men in Slovakia by about eight years on average, meaning that they experience a longer and poorer old age than their male counterparts.

The second main aspect of gender inequality in the labour market is that women continue to face an enormous double burden of both professional and domestic responsibilities. Indeed, while according to surveys women and, to a lesser extent, men agree that many domestic chores should be shared equally, in reality women continue to perform the bulk of the household chores. With this double workload, women are handicapped (by their limited energy, time and other responsibilities) to compete with men for better-paid jobs that require greater dedication.

Indirect consequences of the double burden that women bear include the fact that women are more likely to take a job closer to home in preference to a better a job further away because they feel obliged to remain closer to their children; child care remains the principal responsibility of women.

Slovak women are not satisfied with the continued and traditional unbalanced division of labour within the family, and they are also more critical of their status and opportunities on the labour market and in politics. Compared to men, however, they have less clear ideas on how to fight discrimination on the labour market, and tend to prefer a strategy of passive adaptation; in doing so, they actually help to cement their weaker position within the public sphere.

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