Lower-paid women

OECD Observer

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The number of women going out to work has risen in most OECD countries in recent years and their wages have risen too.

But no matter how the gender wage gap is measured, women’s hourly earnings are still below those received by men in all countries, averaging 84% of male wages, or a wage gap of 16 percentage points, the latest OECD Employment Outlook found.

Women in Portugal come closest to equal pay with their male counterparts, with a wage gap of just 5 percentage points, while those in the United Kingdom have the widest gap, with women’s wages at 75% of their male counterparts’ salaries. The gap exacerbates the fact that even if they were on the same hourly rate, many women would take home less pay than men anyway, as they are more likely to do part-time work or work shorter full-time hours.

Still, the proportion of women in work has risen in the past two decades in all OECD countries and in some, such as Denmark and Sweden, nearly as many women as men are in employment. But as the chart shows, countries with higher female employment rates also have wider wage gaps. This is because women with a university education tend to work in all countries, but less educated women work in large numbers only in countries where the overall employment rate for women is high. Hence, in countries like Greece, Italy and Spain, where the share of women in employment is only about 30%, as many of those would be skilled workers, their pay gaps with men are narrower, all other things equal. By contrast, a higher proportion of female employment is low-skilled in the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom and the United States, causing the gender gap to be wider.


• OECD Employment Outlook, 2002.

©OECD Observer No. 233, August 2002 

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