Salary disparity for women a problem of global scale, says UN

A report by the United Nations reinforces the concern and underlines that men-women wage inequality is a problem of global scale


“Globally, women earn 24% less than men,” said the Human Development Report 2015, published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).  Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
“Globally, women earn 24% less than men,” said the Human Development Report 2015, published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

New Delhi: Bollywood actors Kangana Ranaut and Priyanka Chopra have spoken against the disparity in salaries of male and female actors in the past, but the problem is not limited to one industry or country.

A report by the United Nations reinforces the concern and underlines that men-women wage inequality is a problem of global scale.

From the US to Europe and Asia, women are not getting equal pay for equal work, the UN said in its latest human development report, indicating that gender inequality in workplace is a broader issue.

“Globally, women earn 24% less than men,” said the Human Development Report 2015, published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

This inequality in pay is not in the bottom of the pyramid but across seniority levels, employment roles and professions.

“…even when doing similar work, women often earn less—with the gap generally greater for the highest paying professions,” the human development report said.

In the US, female financial specialists earn 66% of what their male counterparts earn. For dentists, the proportion is 74% and for accountants it is 76%. In Latin America, female top managers average only 53% of male top managers’ salaries. For female scientists it is 65%, as per the report.

The UN said some of the wage gaps can be explained by differences in education, skill levels and years of experience. However, it went on to add that most of the countries did not explain to a large extent the reason for the wide disparity.

“…in most cases a large part of (disparity) remains unexplained,” the UN’s report said, adding that wage gaps are not just an economic issue but also affect “power relations” in families and society. “Equal pay for equal work is not just a matter of social justice, it also holds substantial social value, especially for empowering women in households and the community,” it added.

As per the human development report, wage gaps are but one indication of lower representations in positions of leadership and seniority in the private sector. “Globally, women hold 22% of senior leadership and 32% of businesses have no female senior managers,” the UN report said.

According to 2015 report by consulting company Grant Thornton, Japan is at the bottom of the pyramid in terms of women in leadership roles in businesses. Only 8% of all business leadership roles are occupied by women in Japan. Since 2004, women representations in leadership roles has improved just 3 percentage points—from 19% in 2004 to 22% in 2015—highlighting a broad stagnation.

Besides Japan, Germany (14%), India and Brazil with 15% each and Argentina (16%) complete the bottom five list of countries in terms of women in business leadership positions. Russia (40% representation) is at the top of the 40-country survey by Grant Thornton.

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