As a woman, I am very interested in gender discrimination related to poverty issues. According to many studies and statistics, on a world-wide scale, women are more likely to be poor than men. It is estimated that women represent 70% of the world’s poor. This is partly due to the fact that women face discrimination in education and employment, in both developing and developed countries. In fact, the average wage gap between men and women in 2008 was 17% (UN Women, 2012). In this blog post I wanted to write a little bit about the gender discrimination and wage differentials between men and women because I believe that wage equality would be an important step in reducing the overall inequality that still exists between men and women.
There are several reasons for why men on average earn more than women. Women traditionally work more often in positions that are poorly paid; these include for example nursing or teaching infants. In better paid environments women face discrimination in terms of the difficulty of reaching managerial and top positions. Furthermore, women tend to take unpaid breaks from work to take care of their children more often than men. (EAPN Ireland, 2010).
Even though the situation concerning the discrimination in the labour market for women in many developed countries is less severe than in developing countries, women still continue to face discrimination. Women earn on average 20 % less than men in similar positions in seven EU countries. This not only affects women during their working life but also leads to the fact that women receive smaller pensions. In fact, approximately 35% of women aged over 65 years face risk of being poor whereas the figure for men is only 16%. (EAPN Ireland, 2010).
According to a resent study, in Finland women earn on average 82,6% of that of the salary of men. Even though the pay gap between men and women in Finland has decreased somewhat during the recent years, the progress has been quite slow. (Smt, 2012a). This is why the Finnish government has established a programme in an attempt to try to decrease the difference in average income between men and women. The goal of the programme is to decrease the wage difference from 18% at the start of the programme in 2006 to less than 15% by 2015. The measures taken to achieve this goal include for example the establishment of different policies, the development of the wage system as well as supporting the career development of women. (Smt, 2012b). One practical action taken to achieve the objective has been mapping out the wages in different companies to discover unnecessary and hidden wage differentials between male and female workers. (Smt, 2012a).
EAPN Ireland, 2010. Women in Europe face Greater Risk of Poverty and Social Exclusion. [online] (8 March 2010) Available at: http://www.eapn.ie/eapn/women-in-europe-deserve-a-better-deal [Accessed 13 November 2012]
Sosiaali- ja terveysministeriö (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health), 2012a. Miesten ja naisten välinen palkkaero kaventunut, mutta lisäponnistuksia tarvitaan (The income gap between men and women decreased but more efforts are needed). [online] Helsinki: Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Available at: http://www.stm.fi/tiedotteet/tiedote/-/view/1809357 [Accessed 13 November 2012]
Sosiaali- ja terveysministeriö (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health), 2012b. Samanpalkkaisuusohjelmalla kurotaan palkkaeroja (The programme for equal income is set to decrease income inequality). [online] Helsinki: Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Available at: http://www.stm.fi/tasa-arvo/samapalkkaisuus [Accessed 13 November 2012]
UN Women, 2012. Women, Poverty & Economics, [online] Available at: http://www.unifem.org/gender_issues/women_poverty_economics/[Accessed 13 November 2012]