The wage gap is not narrowing (yet)

The wage gap is not narrowing (yet)
The wage gap is not narrowing (yet)

Beyond the progress, the figures reveal that inequalities persist. According to official data released in the Permanent Household Survey of Indec, in the last quarter of 2023 women reached the historical peak of participation in the labor market of 52.5%, with an employment level of 49.3%. In other words, women have never had so much work. However, in that same period, the income gap with respect to men was 25.85%. The difference against is a constant in other items, such as access to retirement, hours spent on unpaid care, participation in informal or low-paid sectors and possibilities for professional development. We analyze the causes of these situations and what changes we need.

Women are not only at a disadvantage in terms of income. Dolores Castellá, member of the Gender Observatory of CEPA (Center for Argentine Economics and Politics) and coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Area of ​​the National University of Rosario (UNR), reviews the elements that make up an unfavorable structural situation, but not for that reason definitive.

Care tasks. According to the latest National Survey on Time Use, women spend six hours a day on unpaid care work, while men spend three. This difference influences the quality of employment that can be obtained, the possibilities for professional development and the opportunities to access management positions.

Quality of employment. Traditionally “feminized” sectors, such as domestic service (97%), teaching (72.8%) and social and health services (67.9%), in which women have the greatest participation, have the lowest salaries and high rates of informality, as in the case of work in private homes. On the contrary, the best paid are in industrialized sectors such as technology, mining and energy, where they are a minority.

Retirement. When it comes to retirement, women are also at a disadvantage. This is because only 8% of them manage to complete the required years of contributions in a timely manner. Many leave their jobs, interrupt their careers to devote themselves to their family or accumulate periods of informality and precariousness. For this reason, 78% retire through the pension moratorium, which determines that they will receive the meager minimum benefits.

In poverty and in wealth too. Of those who pay income tax, 70% are men and 30% are women. A similar trend is seen in the Personal Property Tax.

Environmental limitations. Stereotypes about what is expected of women and men are deeply rooted. As a result, some women fall victim to what is known as “imposter syndrome,” which is characterized by a devaluation that influences the negotiation of salary or better working conditions.

Penalization of motherhood. Although it is not written, it happens. When women have children, their salary and development opportunities stagnate. According to studies carried out by Cepa, after becoming mothers they earn 33.7% less than men when they become fathers. What happens is that they work fewer hours, to dedicate themselves to care tasks that are not yet well distributed. One fact of this imbalance is that the National Labor Law still establishes that the birth leave for men is two days.

All the plates in the air. Of the households headed by one person, 90% are women (they are also known as single-parent households). In these cases, in addition to juggling parenting time, income is diluted between expenses on health, food, transportation and education, among others.

How is the playing field leveled? Castellá suggests that policies are needed to encourage women to enter management positions and careers that are not traditionally feminized. Infrastructure works that facilitate care tasks are also essential, such as the construction of kindergartens.

“More and more of us are entering the labour market and are aware of the gender inequalities that are not acceptable,” she says.

“Inflation has a specific impact on women and single-parent households, where most of the income is spent on the consumption of products that make up the basic food basket, which is what has increased the most in recent months,” explains Sol Prieto, professor at the University of Buenos Aires, the University of San Andrés and former national director of Economy, Equality and Gender.

Prieto adds that during periods of recession and inflation, the first jobs to be lost are those held by women in sectors such as education, health and domestic service.

“Never in the history of Argentina have women worked so much for pay,” says Prieto in reference to the results of the Permanent Household Survey carried out by Indec in the last quarter of 2023. This jump is due to the fact that they went out en masse to look for work to supplement family income in the face of the loss of purchasing power.

To reduce disparities, Prieto believes it is necessary to address several fronts simultaneously. On the one hand, balancing responsibility for unpaid care and domestic tasks. Involving more women in strategic and dynamic sectors of the economy, and supporting the sectors where they are the majority to create quality, productive and well-paid sources of work.

She also says that, worldwide and in the post-pandemic period, the number of mothers with children under 6 years of age who found teleworking an opportunity to enter the labor market has increased. This phenomenon, which is seen mainly in the United States, also occurs in Argentina, although there is still no data on the quality of these jobs.

To claims that in our country there is no difference between the salaries of women and men, Prieto responds: “The evidence shows that there is a wage gap throughout the world and that in our country it exists in all branches of activity and in different provinces. The mistake is to cite isolated cases, when in reality, this arises when comparing the mass of income of women versus the mass of income of men.”

Although they try to deny it, the wage gap is not new. Georgina Sticco, director of Grow Gender and Work, an NGO dedicated to promoting diverse, inclusive and violence-free work spaces, points out that in the 1950s, Argentina signed an agreement with the ILO (International Labour Organization) in which it committed to eradicating wage differences. This means that for at least 70 years, there has been an awareness that jobs are not paid equally.

Sticco says that in countries such as England and Australia, among others, the State requires the private sector to publish a report on the wage gap within companies with more than 50 employees. In addition to making the problem visible, this mechanism produces internal changes because no organization wants to show a negative image.

“This is a simple and positive action that costs the State nothing,” says Sticco, who also maintains that it is necessary to measure all aspects of the gap, not only in income but also in health coverage, vacations, promotion and other benefits. “What we cannot do is stick with the discourse that there are no women who want to work in areas such as industry, technology or energy, without having done something to change that situation,” she says.

In order to recruit women, she points out that some companies make search requirements more flexible, such as having experience. They also offer specialization and training opportunities to strengthen the knowledge of applicants who have potential.

“For those who reach leadership positions, it is important to be empathetic and think: what can be done to make it easier to get to those places? How can I make a difference? What would I have liked to have happened to me that didn’t happen?”

Income differences are an open secret and talking about money in the workplace is difficult. If a woman raises the issue, she runs the risk of being labelled a troublemaker. For men, however, negotiating their working conditions is a natural thing to do because it is part of their role as providers.

In order not to be left in a vulnerable position, it is advisable to rely on the strength of peer organisation. “We must not be afraid to raise what we think is fair, but it is advisable to talk to our colleagues and rely on the power of the organisation. Individual negotiations only modify specific situations. However, group claims produce collective changes,” recommends Sticco.

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