Lack of support for motherhood hurting women’s careers

Gaps in working hours, employment conditions, earnings: OECD

Women pay a high price for motherhood, with steep child-care costs, availability or access to such facilities and taxes deterring many from working more, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Gains in female education attainment have contributed to a worldwide increase in women’s participation in the labour force, but considerable gaps remain in working hours, conditions of employment and earnings, said Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now.

In OECD countries, men earn on average 16 per cent more than women in similar full-time jobs. At 21 per cent, the gender gap is even higher at the top of the pay scale, suggesting the continued presence of a glass ceiling, said the report.

“Closing the gender gap must be a central part of any strategy to create more sustainable economies and inclusive societies,” said OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría. “The world’s population is ageing and this challenge can only be mastered if all the talent available is mobilized. Governments should make further progress in the access and quality of education for all, improve tax and benefits systems, and make child care more affordable, in order to help women contribute more to economic growth and a fairer society.”

The average pay gap between men and women widens to 22 per cent in families with one or more children, found OECD. For couples without children, the gap is seven per cent. Overall, the wage penalty for having children is on average 14 per cent, with Korea showing the greatest gap, while Italy and Spain have almost none.

Improving the tax and benefit system for working parents would help tackle the gap. After accounting for child care, 52 per cent of a family’s second wage is effectively taxed away, said the report. This proportion rises to 65 per cent and above in Australia, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, the United States and the United Kingdom.

If child care eats up one wage, there is often little or no financial gain from both parents working or at least working full-time, said OECD. Part-time work among women is most common in Austria, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the U.K. Taking into account part-time work, the gender wage gap in take-home pay doubles in many European countries, and triples in Ireland and the Netherlands.

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