Women in health and care sector paid 24% less than men

The largest part of this wage gap, however, 'remains unexplained'

Women in health and care sector paid 24% less than men

Despite making up more than half of the health and care workforce, women are still paid 24% less than their male counterparts in the sector.

This is according to a new joint report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which reviewed the gender pay gap in the health and care sector amid the pandemic and what has driven it to that point.

Their findings revealed a raw gender pay gap of approximately 20 percentage points, which climbed to 24 percentage points when factors such as age, education, and working time were included.

The report underscores that women are underpaid for their labour market attributes when compared to men, even if women account for 67% of the health and care workers worldwide.

"Women comprise the majority of workers in the health and care sector, yet in far too many countries systemic biases are resulting in pernicious pay penalties against them," said Jim Campbell, WHO director of Health Workforce, in a statement.

Mothers in the sector seem to suffer more additional penalties, according to the report. It said that employment and gender pay gaps "significantly increase" during a woman's reproductive years, which then persist throughout her career.

According to the report, the existence of the wage gap remains unexplained - but said it is likely due to discrimination towards women. It pointed out that difference in age, education, working time modality, and institutional sectors can only explain a "small part of the observed gender pay gaps in the sector."

"However, the largest part of the gender pay gap remains unexplained by available data on labour market attributes," the report read.

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What can be done

It revealed, however, that there is a "wide variation in gender pay gaps in different countries." It cited that gender pay gaps tend to be wider in higher-pay categories, where men are over-represented.

This suggests that pay gaps in the sector are not inevitable, according to the report, and that more can be done to close the gaps.

To do this, the report outlined the following interconnected strategies:

  • Collect and analyse sector-specific wage data to allow timely assessments of the workforce
  • Invest in decent health and care jobs, including formalising informal jobs
  • Tackle the explained part of the gender pay gap
  • Standardise working conditions between women and men with respect to contracts
  • Institute pay transparency and legal instruments to fight against pay discrimination

"The evidence and analysis in this ground-breaking report must inform governments, employers and workers to take effective action," said Campbell. "Encouragingly, the success stories in several countries show the way; including wage increases and political commitment to pay equity."

Manuela Tomei, ILO's Director of the Conditions of Work and Equality Department, said the pandemic has exposed the "stubbornly large gender pay gaps" in the health and care sector.

"There will be no inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery without a stronger health and care sector," said Tomei. "We cannot have better-quality health and care services without better and fairer working conditions, including fairer wages, for health and care workers, the majority of whom are women."

"The time has arrived for decisive policy action, including the necessary policy dialogue between institutions. We hope this detailed and authoritative report will help stimulate the dialogue and action needed to create this," the official added.

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