Reasons and consequences

There are many reasons for pay gaps between women and men. Sometimes these reasons are historical but can also be due to deeply ingrained stereotypes. The lack of childcare and the uneven sharing of unpaid care duties also play their part.

Discrimination on the labour market

If, within a company, women with the same qualifications have less chance of being hired, fewer continuing education opportunities and less chance of being promoted and given more demanding tasks, they are victims of employment discrimination. If they receive unequal pay for equal work or work of equal value, they are victims of pay discrimination. A distinction is made between direct and indirect discrimination. Direct pay discrimination describes a situation where, for example, different minimum wages apply to male and female unskilled workers. A situation where more women than men work part-time, and part-time workers are paid lower wages, is known as indirect discrimination. The same holds true if a typically female occupation (nurse) is less well paid than an equivalent typically male occupation (police officer).

What causes pay discrimination?

Pay discrimination is not usually deliberate. The reasons can often be found in the different values attributed to men's and women's work and performance. These differences cannot be justified objectively and are coloured by gender stereotypes. Discrimination can also occur when pay is not established on a systematic and transparent basis and especially when it is negotiated on an individual basis. Companies can effectively reduce the risk of hidden pay discrimination by undertaking regular reviews of their pay practice and by avoiding gender bias in job evaluation, when establishing the pay of functions and evaluating performance.

Consequences of pay discrimination

Pay discrimination disadvantages women and their families in the short and long term, as lower pay has an effect on social insurances and pensions. But it also has consequences on society as a whole. The State has to pay more social benefits and at the same time is denied tax revenue and social insurance contributions. The economy has a smaller pool of qualified skilled workers as women are not sufficiently present in the labour market. Lastly, pay discrimination distorts competition between companies.

Further information