Gender pay gap shown to exist even at start of career

A survey carried out by the Institute of Economic and Social Research reveals that, even at the start of their career, women earn considerably less than their male counterparts. Compared with the gender pay gap among older employees, the gap among those starting their career is slightly smaller in western Germany, but is wider in eastern Germany. The gender pay gap among career starters varies considerably according to economic sector and occupation.

Germany lags behind most of the EU Member States in terms of the gender pay gap. A study on gender wage differentials at the start of the career (in German) by the Institute of Economic and Social Research (Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut, WSI) within the Hans Böckler Foundation (Hans Böckler Stiftung) reveals that, even in their first three years of work, women earn, on average, 18.7% less than their male counterparts. The gender pay gap cannot fully be explained by either personal attributes or structural factors; the researchers conclude that the results point to the continuation of gender-specific pay discrimination.

About the study

The study, carried out for the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSJ), is based on the WSI Wage Indicator (Lohnspiegel), an online survey which forms part of the international wage indicator network. The Lohnspiegel database contains the records of 106,000 individuals, including data for 16,000 persons in the first three years of their working lives. Compared with federal employment statistics, the Lohnspiegel data slightly overrepresent employees of large establishments and persons with third-level education. The survey on career starters tested for a range of structural and personal factors. Some of the findings are outlined below.

Survey results

International comparison

In a European comparison, the gender pay gap for career starters (18.7%) in Germany is the third widest among eight European countries examined according to wage indicator data. Spain is at the top of the list with a gender pay gap of 30.4%, followed by Poland with 26%. After Germany comes the United Kingdom (UK) with 17%, Finland (11.7%), the Netherlands (11.5%), Denmark (9.8%) and Belgium (9.4%).

In Germany, a considerable gender pay gap of 17.9% is reported in the first year of employment (Table 1). This gap widens to 21.8% in the group having between four and 10 years’ work experience.

Table 1: Monthly wages of men and women and gender pay gap, by years of employment

Years of employment

Men’s wages (€)

Women’s wages (€)

Gender pay gap (%)

1

2,677

2,197

17.9

2

2,734

2,232

18.4

3

2,859

2,274

20.5

4

2,883

2,297

20.3

5

3,015

2,395

20.6

6

3,078

2,448

20.5

7

3,153

2,413

23.5

8

3,238

2,544

21.4

9

3,289

2,537

22.9

10

3,357

2,627

21.7

Source: Bispinck, R. et al, Geschlechtssprezifische Lohndifferenzen (2Mb PDF), 2009, p. 25

Regional variations

The gender pay gap among all employees is markedly wider in western Germany than in eastern Germany, as both regions still reflect different historical gender regimes. However, the survey gives new information that the regional factor is of relatively low importance for career starters. In western Germany, the gender pay gap is 20.7% among those working more than 10 years and is slightly smaller (18.7%) among individuals within their first three years of employment. In contrast, in eastern Germany the gender pay gap is higher for career starters (17.8%) than for those working 10 years or more (14.7%). Thus, for people at the start of their careers, the proportions for both geographic areas are rather similar: 18.7% and 17.8%.

Sectoral and occupational differences

The gender pay gap for those just starting work is strongly influenced by the sector of economic activity, ranging from 4.8% in the energy and water supply industries to 21.2% in financial intermediation (Table 2).

Table 2: Monthly wages and gender pay gap of career starters (up to three years of employment), by sector

Sector

Men’s wages (€)

Women’s wages (€)

Gender pay gap (%)

Manufacturing

2,925

2,380

18.8

Energy and water supply, waste disposal, recycling

2,756

2,623

4.8

Construction

2,370

2,106

11.1

Wholesale and retail trade, repair of goods

2,284

1,847

19.1

Hotels and restaurants

1,909

1,697

11.1

Transport, postal services and telecommunications

2,427

2,298

4.5

Financial intermediation

3,257

2,568

21.2

Public services

2,774

2,197

20.8

Education, research

2,882

2,390

17.1

Health and social work

2,658

2,099

21.0

Other community, social and personal services

2,761

2,273

17.7

Total

2,734

2,223

18.7

Source: R. Bispinck et al, 2009, p. 27

The gender pay gap varies widely among occupations, ranging from under 10% for computer and information technology jobs, as well as those in marketing and social services, to more than 20% in healthcare and medical occupations, food processing and jobs in the chemicals industry.

Effect of company size

The proportion of the gender pay gap remains largely unaffected by establishment size, although in larger workplaces there is a wider gap in monetary terms between the earnings of men and women just starting work than in smaller workplaces.

Birgit Kraemer, Institute of Economic and Social Research, WSI

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