Across European countries, women continue to earn less than men. Looking at data for full-time working women across 30 countries, we find that women would have needed an average raise of 19 percent of their hourly wage to match male wages. Take France, for example, where the gap is close to the regional average: this would mean going from 584 Euros to 697 Euros for a 40-hour work week. In fact, in some countries the gap was higher, reaching 1/3rd of women's salaries in 2015 (see Figure 1). However, the lowest observed gaps are not found in Scandinavia, as you might expect, but in Croatia, Greece, and Belgium, where women would require a 12% wage increase to fill the gap. And these gaps have persisted over time. Over a five-year period, the gap decreased in only 10 of the 30 European countries we looked at. The most notable decreases were in Estonia (10 percentage points), the Slovak Republic (5 percentage points), and Switzerland (7 percentage points). For others, the gap has increased, particularly in Poland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and France, where the gap has doubled, while in some Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway) and Latvia, the gap has remained relatively constant.
Researchers in development often hope that their research can ultimately influence policy. But getting from research results to policymaker persuasion is an ongoing struggle. Yesterday I heard insights on this point from Dasmine Kennedy of Jamaica’s Ministry of Education as well as Albert Motivans from Equal Measures 2030. (I also gave my two cents.)
Long one of the world’s most unequal countries, Brazil surprised pundits by recording a massive reduction in household income inequality in the last couple of decades. Between 1995 and 2012, the country’s Gini coefficient for household incomes fell by seven points, from 0.59 to 0.52. (For comparison, all of the inequality increase in the United States between 1967 and 2011 amounted to eight Gini points – according to this study.)
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Land and property lie at the center of many of today’s pressing development challenges. Consider that at most 10% of land in rural Africa is reliably registered. At this week‘s annual Land and Poverty Conference here at the World Bank, we will hear how this vast gap in documentation of land gap blunts access to opportunities and key services for millions of the world’s poorest people, contributes to gender inequality, and undermines environmental sustainability.
Although countries have dramatically closed gender gaps in education and labor force participation, gender differences within education and employment persist. Women earn less income and work in lower paying occupations and sectors than men do. Women are less likely to become entrepreneurs, and, when they do, they typically run smaller, less-profitable firms. These gender gaps in entrepreneurship, incomes, and productivity persist at all levels of development, despite a multitude of policies aimed at eliminating them. And as countries move forward with closing glaring gender differences, other gaps become visible.
In 2014, Australian startup founder Evan Thornley gave a talk at a technology startup conference about why he likes to hire women. So far, so good. However, things quickly deteriorated when he explained that part of the reason was that women were “still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender”, illustrated by a slide that read “Women. Like men, only cheaper”.
While the ensuing media outcry quickly forced Thornley to backtrack on his comments, the reality his slide so eloquently put into words is not so easily revised. Even in Silicon Valley, considered one of the most forward-thinking industries in the world, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts.
Rural areas are changing rapidly, but the shift does not affect women and men in the same way.
In the process of rural development and transformation, as employment for both women and men expands in other sectors, employment in the agricultural sector is expected to shrink. Yet delving through available data and the literature, we find that the reality isn’t quite that simple. In a great number of developing countries, as men move out of family farming, women tend to stay--or move out of the sector a lot more slowly. Many women even take on new jobs and responsibilities in agriculture. We call this phenomenon the ‘feminization’ of agriculture.
When I was a high school student in Belgium, our history textbook included a reproduction of a painting entitled “The Drunkard” by Eugène Laermans. The painting was included in the section describing the history of the labor movement in the country and its achievements in passing legislation aimed at improving the situation of the working class. In particular, the painting was meant to illustrate why the Belgian law introducing child benefits – monthly transfers to all families raising children until age 18 (or until age 25 as long as they are still students) - stipulates that these benefits are paid to the mother. The law still holds today, even if it allows for exceptions when the mother is not present in the household.