Income report finds loss of earnings and increase in gender-related pay differentials

The recent report on the income of the Austrian population reveals that (with the exception of civil servants) employees earned less in 2004 than in 2000. Gender-specific pay differentials remain considerable. They have even increased among blue-collar workers, where women were mostly affected by the loss of pay.

The report on the income of Austria’s 3.7 million employees, carried out by the Court of Audit (Rechnungshof, RH) ('Bericht gemäß Art 1 § 8 Bezügebegrenzungsgesetz, BGBl. I Nr. 64/1997 für die Jahre 2002 und 2003'), finds that only civil servants earn more than four years ago. The wages of male civil servants after deduction of income tax and social insurance contribution increased by 8.3%, whereas women in the public sector earn only 0.3% more as compared to 2000.

Both blue- and white-collar workers experienced income losses in real terms and also after deduction of income tax and social insurance contribution since 2000. The median salary of female blue-collar workers after deductions decreased by 11.1%. As for white-collar employees, men’s pay dropped by 5.8% and women’s pay by 1.8%.

The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs, SPÖ), regards this development as a big problem also for macroeconomic reasons, since without mass purchasing power there is no chance for economic recovery.

Gender-related pay differentials persist

The income report confirms that gender-specific pay inequalities are still considerable. Taking the average wage of a female employee as a reference, male employees earn 40% more. Austria belongs to the countries with the highest gender-related pay differentials in Europe.

Table 1. Average annual gross income, by employment categories, by sex, 2003
Employment category Women Men
Blue-collar employee 9,500 21,230
White-collar employee 18,540 33,140
Civil servant 35,150 39,390

Source: Income report of the RH for 2002 and 2003

Minister for health and women, Maria Rauch-Kallat, claims that gender-specific pay differentials decreased by 2% in recent years, whereas social scientists say that nearly all studies show an increase of gender-specific pay differentials.

This contradiction probably ensues from the fact that pay developments differed across the distinct employment categories, i.e. private sector manual workers, private sector white-collar workers and public sector employees.

While in 1999 gender-specific pay inequalities were higher among white-collar workers than among manual workers, in 2003 it was the other way round. Today the gender-specific wage gap is most pronounced among manual workers. Pay differentials are smallest in the case of civil servants. In 2003, with EUR 10,640, retired women received only half of the annual pension of men (EUR 19,550).

Reasons for gender-specific pay differentials

The gender-specific pay differentials are accentuated by the fact that female employment is concentrated in low-pay sectors and that part-time work is much more prevalent among female employees.

Mrs Rauch-Kallat points out that female employment increased in the last years, but statistics reveal that there was only a rise in part-time jobs and even a decline in full-time jobs. The share of part-time jobs increased from 20% in 1991 to 33% in 2003. From 1995 to 2002, the number of female employees working part time increased by 144,000, while the number of women having full-time jobs decreased by 7,000. Brigid Weinzinger of the Green Party (Die Grünen, GRÜNE), who is the party’s speaker for women’s rights, emphasises that Austria is the only country in the EU where the number of fully employed women has declined. In 2000, 31% of women had part-time jobs and 11% were minimally employed (geringfügig beschäftigt), i.e. they worked very few hours. The corresponding figures for men were 3% and 4%, respectively. Additionally, men work more overtime than fully employed women.

But the wage gap between men and women can only be partly attributed to the length of the working week. According to the report, these differences also exist among full-time employees and social scientists say that different pay for equally qualified employees is common. This gender wage gap already emerges at the employees’ first appointment after leaving the education system. Men start with a gross wage that is 18% higher than that of women belonging to the same occupational group. This difference has not changed since 1999 (AT0103209F).

Furthermore, the wages of male employees increase more in the course of working life than women’s pay. Interestingly, this does not apply to unmarried women. In a longer-term perspective, their wages exceed those of unmarried men.

The reconciliation of childcare tasks and housekeeping with employment is still a burden that mainly women have to bear. For every paid working hour, women have to perform 51 minutes of unpaid work at home. The corresponding figure for men is 11 minutes. The share of men in the total number of parental leaves is only about 3%.

Every year, women take leave for family reasons, something which accounts for a life income loss of 10%. This can be attributed to the reduction of the opportunities for career advancement and the fact that many of the women concerned accept part-time jobs after a family-related leave.

Demands for the improvement of women’s chances in the labour market

Trade unions and the opposition parties SPÖ and GRÜNE demand encompassing public childcare facilities in order to help parents make childcare compatible with employment requirements. According to the SPÖ, there are 90,000 childcare places missing in Austria. Childcare facilities are available for only 9% of children who are younger than three years.

The Union of Salaried Employees (Gewerkschaft der Privatangestellten, GPA) aims at achieving the following goals:

  • Equal pay for equal work.
  • Equal representation of men and women in works councils and collective agreement negotiation teams.
  • Obligation of every employer to publish gender-specific statistics.
  • Reform of the childcare benefit scheme (Kinderbetreuungsgeld) (AT0404203F).
  • Training measures for mothers re-entering the labour market.
  • More full-time jobs for women.

The Austrian Trade Union Federation (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund, ÖGB) launched an income campaign at the International Women’s Day on 8 March, trying to make Mrs Rauch-Kallat and Martin Bartenstein, the minister of economic and labour affairs, aware of their responsibility.


Given the developments of the last years and the current situation, improvements in women’s chances in the labour market are unlikely. The determinants of gender-specific pay inequality and the unfulfilled demands of women’s representatives have remained the same. Wages in female-dominated sectors are low. As childcare and housework are still mainly women’s responsibilities in Austrian society, many women accept part-time jobs. Some experts even expect a worsening of the situation, as the current childcare benefit system and the increase of the amount of income which single breadwinners can set off against tax liability (Alleinverdienerabsetzbetrag) encourages mothers of small children to stay at home longer. Emancipatory headway is left to each individual, while current social policy rather supports traditional role models. (Sonja Strohmer, University of Vienna)

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