Now we have documentation: Women earn less than men in the same job
Norwegian women earn 9 per cent less than men, even if they work in the same workplace, have the same occupation and the same job. Fifteen countries, including Norway, have been investigated in a large international study.
Why do women earn less than men?
This question has been hotly debated for many years.
Now it turns out that the most common argument isn’t so valid any longer.
Too often, the wage gap between the sexes is explained by the fact that women choose to work in professions with lower wages.
A new study concludes that this doesn’t explain everything.
Only half the explanation
“We found this to be only half of the story. The other half is comprised of women who are paid less than the men they're working next to in the same job,” said Andrew Penner in an article on the website phys.org.
Penner is a professor of sociology at the University of California and first author of the study, which was recently published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
The researchers have examined pay inequality between men and women in 15 countries. They have used employment and earnings data that links employees to employers.
After controlling for differences in age, education and whether the person works full-time or part-time, they arrived at a clear conclusion.
Women do not receive the same salary as men, even if they have the same job.
They found large differences between the countries.
Norway is far from the best in the class
All told, 28 researchers and officials from 23 institutions in 15 nations, including Norway, worked on the assessment.
Norway was represented by Trond Petersen, a professor II at Oslo Metropolitan University (OsloMet) who currently works at the University of California, Berkeley, and Are Skeie Hermansen, an associate professor at the University of Oslo.
The researchers found that Norway, which is often referred to as the ‘land of gender equality’, actually doesn’t compare well to other countries.
There is a 9 per cent difference in pay between women and men in Norway, even if they work in the same workplace, have the same profession and do the same job.
When the researchers looked at the general difference between women and men in the Norwegian labour market, the wage difference is 21 per cent, according to an overview from the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) (link in Danish), one of the participants in the study.
Worse than neighbouring countries
Norway is slightly worse off than its neighbouring countries.
Denmark has a 7 per cent difference in wages whereas in Sweden, that difference is 8 per cent.
Both France and the Netherlands are better off than Norway, with 7 and 8 per cent difference, respectively.
Spain has a difference of 12 per cent and Germany, 13 per cent.
The researchers found the greatest disparity in Japan, where women earned 26 per cent less than men on average. South Korea was in second place with 19 per cent.
None of the 15 countries the researchers studied offered equal pay for equal work.
Jon H. Fiva, a professor at the Norwegian Business School’s (BI) Department of Economics, says he is impressed by the study.
He was especially impressed considering the breadth of the data, which have been collected from 15 different countries and over many years.
The differences the researchers found between men and women in the same job are somewhat greater in this study than we thought based on previous research, he said.
“Previous research has pointed out that the main reason why women and men have different earnings is that they have sorted themselves into different occupations, with different incomes. This study, on the other hand, points out that a large proportion of the variation is also due to differences within the same profession and in the same workplace,” he said.
A bit critical of the conclusion
Fiva nevertheless had two questions about the study.
One is that it is difficult to measure what a job is.
“The researchers assumed that people who have the same education, the same profession and the same workplace, have the same tasks. I think we can't take this completely for granted. There can be systematic differences between what a male and a female financial analyst, for example, do at work,” he said.
The second is that it can be difficult to measure working hours.
“The researchers looked at both full-time and part-time work. But we know that it can be difficult to measure working hours in modern, flexible jobs. Could one reason why men earn more than women be that men work more overtime?” he said.
Should inspire new debate
The Danish researcher Lasse Folke Henriksen said in the Copenhagen Business School press release that the study should inspire a new shift in the political debate about equal pay.
“It has now been documented that workplace conditions are a significant driver for wage differences. Therefore, the political focus should be shifted there,” the researcher said.
The Danish researcher had no explanation as to why men earn more than women, but offered some theories to the Danish newspaper Berlingske.
Family matters a lot. Women who have children put more time into care work at home, he said.
The difference may also be due to conditions in the workplace, such as salary negotiations and promotions, he said.
Something happens when the first child arrives
Fiva, from BI, says that research in this area indicates that the gap in pay between women and men occurs especially during the period when people become parents for the first time.
Women who have had children have a 20 per cent drop in wages, compared to men who have had children. This is a bigger problem than women and men having different average salaries, he believes.
“It seems that women never catch up with men again after this period is over,” he said.
Translated by Nancy Bazilchuk
Andrew M. Penner et.al: Within-job gender pay inequality in 15 countries. Nature Human Behaviour, 2022.
Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no