What are the causes?
There are a number of complex and often interrelated factors that explain the existence of the gender pay gap.
- Some women are paid less than men for doing the same job. This factor only explains a small part of the gender pay gap, due to the effectiveness of the European Union and national legislation.
The undervaluing of women's work
- More frequently women earn less than men for doing jobs of equal value. One of the main causes is the way women's competences are valued compared to men's.
- Jobs requiring similar skills, qualifications or experience tend to be poorly paid and undervalued when they are dominated by women rather than by men. For example, the (mainly female) cashiers in a supermarket usually earn less than the (mainly male) employees involved in stacking shelves and other more physical tasks.
- In addition the evaluation of performance, and hence pay level and career progression, may also be biased in favour of men. For example, where women and men are equally well qualified, more value can be attached to responsibility for capital than to responsibility for people.
Segregation in the labour market
- The gender pay gap is also reinforced by the segregation in the labour market. Women and men still tend to work in different jobs. On the one hand, women and men often predominate in different sectors. On the other hand, within the same sector or company women predominate in lower valued and lower paid occupations.
- Women often work in sectors (for example in health, education, and public administration) where their work is lower valued and lower paid than those dominated by men. When we look at the health sector alone, 80% of those working in this sector are women.
- Moreover, women are frequently employed as administrative assistants, shop assistants, or low skilled or unskilled workers - these occupations accounting for an important proportion of the female workforce. Many women work in low-paying occupations, for example, cleaning and care work.
- Women are under-represented in managerial and senior positions. For example, women represent only around 17% of board members in the biggest publicly listed companies within the EU, around 4% of chairs of boards, and a third of scientists and engineers across Europe.
Traditions and stereotypes
- Segregation is frequently linked to traditions and stereotypes. Whilst in some cases this may reflect personal choices, traditions and stereotypes may influence, for example, the choice of educational paths and, consequently, professional careers that girls and women make.
- While around 60% of new university graduates are women, they are a minority in fields like mathematics, computing and engineering.
- Consequently, there are fewer women working in scientific and technical jobs. In many cases this results in women working in lower valued and lower paid sectors of the economy.
- Because of these traditions and stereotypes, women are expected to reduce their working hours or exit the labour market to carry out child or elderly care.
Balancing work and private life
- Women experience greater difficulties than men when it comes to balancing work and private life.
- Family, care and domestic responsibilities are still not equally shared. The task of looking after dependent family members is largely borne by women. Far more women than men choose to take parental leave. This fact, together with the lack of facilities for childcare and elderly care, means that women are often forced to exit the labour market: only 65.8% of women with young children in the EU are working, compared to 89.1% of men.
- Although part-time work may be a personal choice, women have greater recourse to part-time work in order to combine work and family responsibilities. There is evidence of a pay gap in hourly earnings of part-time and full-time workers. Across Europe around 32% of women work part-time, compared to only around 8% of men.
- Consequently, women have more career interruptions or work shorter hours than men. This has a negative impact on their career development and promotion prospects. It also means less financially rewarding careers.
Please find here all the documents related to the gender pay gap.