Pardon, the gender wage gap is showing

ILO finds women form 60% of lowest paid wage labour, but only 15% of highest wage-earners

December 22, 2016 02:36 am | Updated 02:36 am IST - New Delhi:

India had among the worst levels of gender wage disparity — men earning more than women in similar jobs — with the gap exceeding 30 per cent, the Global Wage Report 2016-17 released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) revealed last week.

In contrast, Singapore had among the lowest, at 3 per cent. Among major economies, only South Korea fared worse than India, with a gap of 37 per cent. In India, women formed 60 per cent of the lowest paid wage labour, but only 15 per cent of the highest wage-earners. “Not only are women poorly represented in the top bracket of wage-earners, the gender pay gap at the bottom is also very wide in India,” said Xavier Estupinan, a wage specialist at the ILO. In other words, not only were women paid less, there were fewer women in highly paid occupations.

The report also found that the share of women among wage earners was among the lowest in South Asia. Compared to a global average of 40 per cent, and an Asia-Pacific average of 38 per cent, in South Asia (whose dominant economy is India), only 20 per cent of wage earners were women.

Delving into the reasons for the wage gap, the report noted that typically, women’s educational choices produced occupational segregation. For instance, since the majority of those who studied nursing were women, “this profession is over-represented among women”. At the same time, care work is undervalued because it may be seen as a natural female attribute rather than a skill to be acquired. Thus, a higher representation of women in sectors where their work is undervalued results in a gender pay gap.

Strong labour market institutions and policies such as collective bargaining and minimum wages lowered the pay gap. Citing OECD studies, the report observed that “the gender pay gap is smallest (8 per cent) in the group of countries where the collective bargaining rate is at least 80 per cent, and widest in countries with weak collective bargaining and no or very low minimum wages.”

Top 1 per cent

The ILO threw light on high income inequality. In India, the top one per cent earned 33 times what the bottom 10 per cent did. The top 10 per cent also earned 43 per cent of all wages. Since 2006, average wages rose by 60 per cent in India, while they more than doubled in China.

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