The gender pay gap is the difference between the average wages of women and men. This indicator is often used to analyze the position of women in the economy; it measures progress toward gender equality at the national and international levels. Boll and Lagemann (2019) note that if the gender pay gap is expressed too explicitly, it not only infringes on women’s rights but hinders the country’s economy’s development. Thus, the gender pay gap is a serious issue that not only harms and discourages women from actively building their professional careers but also affects society.
There are several approaches to interpreting the causes of the gender wage gap. According to Vahter and Masso (2019), the first approach is based on the concept of human capital. It is common to blame the disparity on the fact that it is common among women to enter more “feminine” jobs, such as for example, nursing and teaching. Gender stereotypes also often influence women’s decisions, as they are expected to choose family and childrearing over career. The need to take maternity leave and thus abandon one’s work and/or study is another aspect that factors significantly into the issue. A significant part of the gender gap – about 30-40% – in wages is also explained by occupational segregation by sector and job (Spentzari, 2021). Thus, women remain at a disadvantage in society due for many reasons, many of which are related to their historical discrimination of them.
The gender wage gap exists in many countries around the world. According to Perugini (2020), however, this gap is narrowing over time. In the European Union, from 2006 to 2015, the gender pay gap decreased marginally from 17.7% to 16.4% (Redmond and McGuinness, 2019). The largest gender gap in 2015 was observed in Estonia – 26.9%, and the smallest – in Luxembourg – 5.5% (Costa Dias et al., 2020). A negative gender gap, when women’s wages are higher than men’s salaries, occurred in Slovenia in 2009 at -0.9% (Mavrikiou and Angelovska, 2020). According to Kronberg (2020), the only country in the EU where the size of the gender pay gap increased steadily and significantly between 2006-2015 was Portugal, with the rate rising from 8.4% to 17.8%. It can be concluded that while the problem of the gender pay gap still exists, it has been addressed systematically in the EU.
Over the past decade, the unadjusted gender pay gap has narrowed in all five Nordic countries. Sweden, for example, had the lowest gender pay gap in the region at 11% in 2019 (The gender pay gap, existing but decreasing, 2020). The pay gap was the highest in Finland compared to other Scandinavian countries – at over 16% (Holst, 2018). In Norway and Iceland, it fluctuated over the specified period. Overall, in the Nordic countries, men are paid 14.3% more than women (Gómez-Costilla et al., 2022). Thus, Scandinavian countries show better results in reducing the gender pay gap as opposed to the rest of the world.
It is possible and necessary to fight inequality at different levels. For example, employees can and should offer a more transparent view of their salary-related policies and strive for a more egalitarian organizational culture that does not tolerate any forms of discrimination. Other measures include flexible schedules, which make it easier for employees with children to combine work with household chores. Inequality can also be fought at the legislative level by passing laws that address gender pay inequality specifically. Andrew et al. (2021) assert that this implies the proactive inclusion of trade union organizations and collective bargaining with the participation of female workers in working conditions, including wages and rationing. Finally, society as a whole needs to fight gender – and other – stereotypes to promote equality and support women.
Andrew, A., Bandiera, O., Costa-Dias, M., & Landais, C. (2021). Women and men at work. IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities, pp. 1-55.
Boll, C. and Lagemann, A. (2019) ‘The gender pay gap in EU countries—new evidence based on EU-SES 2014 data’, Intereconomics, 54(2), pp. 101-105.
Costa Dias, M., Joyce, R. and Parodi, F. (2020) ‘The gender pay gap in the UK: Children and experience in work’, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 36(4), pp. 855-881.
Gómez-Costilla, P., García-Prieto, C. and Somarriba-Arechavala, N. (2022) ‘Aging and gender health gap: A multilevel analysis for 17 European countries, Social Indicators Research, 160(2), pp.1051-1069.
Holst, C. (2018) ‘Scandinavian feminism and gender partnership’, in Sustainable modernity. Routledge, pp. 102-118.
Kronberg, A. K. (2020) ‘Workplace gender pay gaps: Does gender matter less the longer employees stay?’, Work and Occupations, 47(1), pp. 3-43.
Mavrikiou, P. M. and Angelovska, J.(2020) ‘The impact of sex segregation by economics activity on the gender across Europe’, UTMS Journal of Economics, 11(1), pp. 1–12.
Perugini, C. (2020) ‘Employment protection and gender wage gap in Europe’, Panoeconomicus, 67(2), pp. 139-165.
Redmond, P. and McGuinness, S. (2019) ‘The gender wage gap in Europe: Job preferences, gender convergence and distributional effects’, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 81(3), pp. 564-587.
Spentzari, E. (2021) ‘Is the gender pay gap another feminist myth? If not, is it finally time for the status quo to be redefined?’, Sunderland Student Law Journal, 2, pp. 93-101.
The gender pay gap, existing but decreasing (2020).Web.
Vahter, P. and Masso, J. (2019) ‘The contribution of multinationals to wage inequality: Foreign ownership and the gender pay gap’, Review of World Economics, 155(1), pp. 105-148.