Time to close the gender pay gap

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IT would be assumed that a boy and a girl baby are born with equal opportunities, but the sad truth is that the educational and career expectations for boys and girls are very different. In today’s world, by the time these babies are grown up, the boy will be earning around 16 per cent more than the girl. Not exactly fair, right?

It seems beyond comprehension that women continue to be paid less than men for the same work. But on average, women in the EU earn around 16 per cent less per hour than men. And this gender pay gap exists even though women do better at school and university than men.

According to a European study, on average, 83 per cent of young women reach at least upper secondary school education in the EU, compared to 77.6 per cent of men. Women also represent 60 per cent of university graduates in the EU. But they continue to earn less than men.

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This gender pay gap is most pronounced in traditionally high-paying occupations and professions where females are the minority, such as doctors and surgeons, executives and managers.

So why is there still such inequality in the workplace? Well, it’s a complex issue. According to an EU report it can be the result of direct discrimination, where women are simply treated less favourably than men. This is prohibited by law, but is unfortunately still present in some workplaces.

Women and men also carry out different jobs and often work in different sectors. In the health sector, women make up 80 per cent of all workers. But sectors where women are in the majority still have lower wages than those dominated by men.

For example, women working in female dominated occupations, such as cleaning, tend to earn less than men who have comparable skills in male dominated occupations, such as rubbish collection.

Why? Well, some experts believe that traditional thinking means that women’s skills are often undervalued because they are seen to reflect ‘female’ characteristics, rather than acquired skills and competences.

It’s very important however to change this status quo. The impact of the gender pay gap means that women earn less over their lifetimes and this results in lower pensions and a risk of poverty in old age.

Greater equality between men and women however would bring benefits to the economy and to society in general.

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