Definition & Causes
The “gender pay gap” is defined as the average difference between men’s and women’s hourly earnings within the economy as a whole. It is about the discrimination and inequalities in the labour market which primarily affect women. But why does the gender pay gap even exist? Here some causes at a glance:
Direct discrimination – meaning that women and men are doing the same job, but women are paid less
The undervaluing of women’s work – because of the way women’s competences and skills are valued compared to men’s. When jobs require similar qualifications, experience or skills they tend to be low-paid and undervalued when it is dominated by women rather than by men.
Segregation in the labour market – this is about the different jobs women and men are holding. They are predominated in different sectors and within these sectors women mainly occur in lower paid and lower valued jobs.
Traditions and stereotypes – this cause is often connected with segregation. It demonstrates the personal choices of woman, for instance what education, professions and paths they follow.
Balancing work and private life – it is about dealing with the family and care responsibilities, which is still main business of women. In general women face more career breaks or work shorter hours than men.
- Jobs that are mainly carried out by women, are paid less than jobs, that are mainly carried out by men
- Women get a lower average income than men with the same job description and the same wage group, also when they are full-time employed. Even at entry into professional life there are differences in earnings, although they have the same qualification level.
- In year 2008 women’s earnings were estimated at 17.5% lower than men’s. On the one hand these lower earnings result in lower pensions, on the other hand more women than men will face poverty in old age.
- Women are underrepresented in managerial and senior positions. For instance, women represent only 32% of managers in companies within the EU, 10% of members of management boards of the largest companies, and 29% of engineers and scientists
- Over one-third of women work part-time, compared to only 8% of men across Europe. More than three-quarters of the total of part-time workers are women
- Women with children earn about 2.5% less than women without children, while men with children earn about 2% more on average than men without children
Situation in the EU
The pay gap is one of the structural indicators used to monitor the imbalances in wages between men and women. This indicator has been defined as unadjusted because it gives an overall picture of the inequalities in the labour market and gender discrimination concerning pay.
The following chart is provided by Eurostat and based on structure of earnings survey. Apparently there are considerable differences between the member states. The pay gap goes from less than 10% in Italy, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Belgium to more than 20% in Slovakia, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Germany, United Kingdom and Greece. More than 25% you can see in Estonia, Austria and Czech Republic. It is important to know that the pay gap does not indicate the overall equality between women and men. It just refers to salaried persons. In order to this you must have a look at other labour market indicators. In general this reflects the different employment patterns of women. In countries where the female employment rate is low like for example in Malta, Italy or Greece the wage differences are lower than the average. In countries with a highly segregated labour market like for instance Cyprus, Slovakia and Finland or countries in which more women work part time like in Austria, Netherlands, UK and Germany the pay gap is very high.
Chart: The unadjusted gender pay gap, 2008 (% difference between average gross hourly earnings of male and female employees, as % of male gross earnings, unadjusted form)
An important step on the road to gender equality in all social areas is the establishment of equal opportunities on the labor market. Women also need their own income from which they can live. This is the key to independence and autonomy. Do you also think there should be a “fair p(l)ay”?