Women in the health and wellness sector face a larger gender pay gap than in other economic sectors, earning on average 24 per cent less than peers who are men, a new report has revealed.
According to a joint report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO), the world's most comprehensive analysis on gender pay inequities in health, a raw gender pay gap of nearly 20 percentage points is found, which jumps to 24 percentage points when accounting for factors like age, education and working time. This points out that females are underpaid for their labour market attributes compared to males.
Much of the wage gap is unexplained, perhaps due to discrimination towards women, who represent 67 per cent of health and care workers globally. The report also finds that wages in the health and care sector tend to be lower overall compared to other economic sectors.
This is consistent with the finding that wages are often lower in economic sectors where women are predominant.
Slight Improvements Between 2019-2020
The gender pay gap in the health and care sector-a global analysis in the time of COVID-19 finds that, even with the pandemic and the essential role played by health and care workers, there were only slight improvements in pay equality between 2019 and 2020, India Today reported.
In addition, the study finds a wide variation in gender pay gaps in many countries, suggesting that pay gaps in the sector are not unavoidable and that more can be done to close these gaps. Within nations, gender pay gaps tend to be broader in higher pay categories, where males are over-represented, and females are over-represented in the lower pay categories.
Mothers Suffer Additional Penalties
Mothers working in the health and care sector appear to suffer additional penalties. During a woman's reproductive years, the industry's employment and gender pay gaps increase significantly, persisting throughout the rest of a woman's working life.
The report noted that in many instances, a more equitable sharing of family duties between males and females could lead to women making different occupational choices.
The analysis also examines the factors driving the gender pay gap. Differences in age, education, working time and the participation of men and women in the public or private sectors only address part of the issue.
The report says that why women are less paid than men with similar labour market profiles in the health and care sector worldwide remains unexplained mainly by labour market factors.
"The health and care sector has undergone low pay in general, stubbornly large gender pay gaps, and demanding working conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed this situation while also demonstrating how crucial the sector and its workers are in keeping families, economies and societies going," said Manuela Tomei, Director of Conditions of Work and Equality Department at the ILO.
"There will be no inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery without a more robust health and care sector. We cannot have better-quality health and care services without fairer and better working conditions, including more reasonable wages, for health and care workers, most of whom are women," Tomei added.
"The time has come for decisive policy action, which includes the necessary policy dialogue between institutions. We hope the detailed and authoritative report will help stimulate the dialogue and action needed to create it," he said.
Jim Campbell, WHO Director of Health Workforce, said that women comprise the majority of workers in the health and care sector, yet in far too many nations, systemic biases are resulting in pernicious pay penalties against them.
"The analysis and evidence in this ground-breaking report must inform governments, workers and employers to take effective action. Encouragingly, the success stories in many countries show the way, including wage increases and political commitment to pay equity," he added.
Meanwhile, in India, the healthcare system has been stretched to the breaking point during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the bulk of the caring burden on females. Women are estimated to account for up to 30 per cent of doctors and over 80 per cent of nurses and midwives.
Women in India's health care sector earn 28 per cent less than men, with occupational segregation appearing to drive a 10 per cent pay gap. This gap in earnings, multiplied over a lifetime, translates into poverty in later years for many females. Outside the formal labour market are those women whose health and social care work is not even recognised, let alone paid.
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