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The Effects of the Pandemic on the Gender Wage Gap

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Key Takeaways

  • The pandemic caused an additional 36 years to be added to the estimated time it will take to close the gender pay gap, bringing the total to 135 years.
  • At the current pace, gender gaps can potentially be closed in 52.1 years in Western Europe and 61.5 years in North America.
  • Global projections suggest that 5% of women had lost their jobs during the pandemic, compared to only 3.9% of men.

The gender wage gap between men’s and women’s salaries has taken a major setback since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A report published by the World Economic Forum found that the pandemic caused an additional 36 years to be added to the estimated time it will take to close the gender pay gap, bringing the total to 135 years.1

This can be attributed to the fact that during the height of the pandemic in early 2020, many women were forced out of jobs in order to care for children who were now at home due to school closures.  Women are also more frequently employed in jobs that were hit hardest during the pandemic and were either furloughed or laid off. 

The report, Global Gender Gap Report 2021, is published every year and seeks to identify the gaps in women’s vs men’s salaries throughout the world as well as calculate how many years it will take to close this gap if the current trend continues. In short, the report calls to action the need to take measures ASAP to close the gender gap.

The following are some additional takeaways from the 2021 report:

  • Closing the global gender pay gap has increased by an entire generation, from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. 
    • At the current pace, gender gaps can potentially be closed in 52.1 years in Western Europe and 61.5 years in North America.
  • In the Global Gender Gap Index rankings, the United States ranked in 16th in Western Europe and North America.
  • The lowest income gap between genders is in Sweden with a gap of 18%. The United States’ gender gap is 35%.
  • Global projections suggest that 5% of women had lost their jobs during the pandemic, compared to only 3.9% of men.
  • Data suggest that when child care establishments closed, tasks like housework, schooling, and elder care responsibilities fell disproportionately on women, contributing to higher levels of stress and lower levels of productivity.
  • Gender gaps are more likely in sectors that require disruptive technical skills. In cloud computing, women make up 14% of the workforce; in engineering, 20%; and in data and artificial intelligence, 32%.
  • Women are less likely to hold managerial positions. In the United States, only 42% of senior and managerial positions were held by women, followed by Sweden at 40% and the United Kingdom at 36.8%.

Reference

Mitchell H. It will now take 135+ years to close gender pay gap because of pandemic. Becker’s Hospital Review. Published April 1, 2021. Accessed April 26, 2021.

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