Women hit by wage gap from day one

Men and women in similar roles receiving different salaries is an issue for many employees Keystone

Women are earning 7% less than men from the very moment they start off in their first job. Researchers behind a long-term study said they found it highly unlikely that anything other than wage discrimination could explain the difference.

This content was published on December 18, 2013 minutes and agencies

As part of a national research programme, 6,000 young adults were followed in their transition from school to the working world, starting in the year 2000. The entry level-salaries of the women were then compared to those of the men.

“It is the first data we have on the transition from education to employment where we can show what is going on in the first ten years,” Kathrin Bertschy, a researcher at the University of Basel told

“In the data [the subjects] have exactly the same training, exactly the same age and we can see how the wage gap develops.”

In an attempt to try and explain the wage gap, the study looked at a wide range of factors including the young people’s schooling and training, their backgrounds, their chosen profession, the size of the company they worked in and the socioeconomic status of their parents.

The researchers believe this new data fills in the gaps in knowledge, whereby a difference in training or education at the start of a person’s career could previously have been cited as a reason for women to earn less than men.

That young men may choose companies that pay higher wages or if they are more assertive in negotiating a starting salary, were factors that could not be ruled out.

“These are not factors that we can statistically measure. We tried to explain these differences…but if it’s not on the job training, it’s not firm size, if these factors do not explain this 7%, what can it be?” said Bertschy.

Among those taking on their first real job, there was no solid reason for the salary difference, which adds up to CHF278 ($313) per month between the two genders according to the study’s authors.

“It seems that the wage gap can only be explained by wage discrimination,” said on Wednesday the lead author, economist Michael Marti.

The researchers hypothesised that employers may give women lower salaries and promote them less, because of an ingrained perception of lower productivity, due to the expectation that a woman will drop out of work at various points in her career to care for children.

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