OECD Observer
Pay gap

Unequal pay between men and women continues to pose problems, despite decades of legislation by governments to address it, like the Equal Pay Act in the United States and the French labour code on wage equality introduced about half a century ago. In fact, not only are women still paid considerably less than men throughout the world, but UN predictions suggest the gap will persist for 70 years to come.  

OECD countries are no exception. Most of them show gender pay gaps for full-time workers of between 10 and 20%. The widest gaps are found in Korea where women are paid 35% less than men, and in Japan where they earn 26% less. With gender pay gaps of between 15 and 18%, France, Germany, the UK and the US are far from being model pupils. On the contrary, New Zealand scores best among the OECD countries, with a 6% pay gap. It is closely followed by Belgium, Denmark and Norway, whose pay gaps evolve around 7%. 

Perhaps surprisingly, the pay gaps are relatively narrow–around 10%–in crisis-hit Greece and Spain, perhaps because only the most qualified women remain in their jobs, which increases women’s median earnings. 

While gender pay gaps have fallen in most OECD countries, progress has slowed, from a decline of 2.1 percentage points per year in 2000-06 to 0.9 percentage points in 2006-12. 

©OECD Observer No 302 Q1 2015


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