The gender pay gap, a contemporary problem

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  1. This is not only a Portuguese problem. According to a study elaborated by the World Economic Forum, the gender pay gap is a global issue. The gap in Portugal was 16,3% in 2017. In 2018, it has increased to 16,7%.

On the 8th of March, we celebrated International Women´s Day. Nevertheless, women still aren´t equal to men, because they receive higher salaries. According to the Portuguese Republic Constitution, article 59, number 1 a) “(…) to equal work equal salaries in way to guarantee a deserved existence (…)”. Although even if this is the law and it´s written on the Constitution, it is not respected at all.

This is not only a Portuguese problem. According to a study elaborated by the World Economic Forum, the gender pay gap is a global issue. The gap in Portugal was 16,3% in 2017. In 2018, it has increased to 16,7%.

As stated by the Portuguese Commission for Equality in Labour and Employment (, the gender pay gap is a multiple cause issue, one of them is little representation of women in sectors such as business management – which is also a higher payed sector. Besides that, jobs performed by women are victims of devaluation and consequently, lower salaries.

The inequality varies based on the performed economic activity, being that in sectors where there are more men, women earn more. In geographic terms, the region also affects wages. In cities like Lisbon or Oporto, there is a bigger difference. In cities such as Algarve the difference is smaller. The qualifications are also an important factor. The higher the qualifications, the less women earn.

Portugal is taking steps towards resolving this issue. According to a Portuguese newspaper, Jornal de Negócios, a degree has been approved to force companies to justify why there are differences between man and woman that are performing the same job. This measure is explored more deeply by another Portuguese newspaper, Público, saying that companies are forced to be transparent, and in case of gender pay gaps, they will be contacted by ACT (Authority for Working Conditions). Then, they will have to present a difference assessment plan, that should be implemented in a year. In case this does not happen, the company will be fined.

Público also says that women who finds themselves in this type of situations should ask for a legal opinion to CITE (Commission to Inequality in Work and Employment). This will be possible from the month of August.

Another measure is that the companies will have, at least, 20% of women in administration and inspection. From the beginning of 2020, this percentage will increase to 33,3%.

As stated by Porto Business School (Portugal), if we decrease the gender pay gap and have more female occupied jobs, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will increase in 30 billions of dollars (9%). On a global level, the GDP will increase in 12 trillions of dollars and the women´s wage will increase in 2 trillions of dollars. Besides that, the workforce will increase by 240 million.

According to European Commission, the causes for this phenomenon are explained with women´s skills not being evaluated the same way as men (even on the same job). There is constant segregation and stereotypes. The lack of women in areas such as math, computing and engineering (that are strongly valuated and well paid areas) could help explain this phenomenon. Most women are occupying professional positions that are devaluated and weakly paid.

Another cause is the equilibrium between professional and personal life. When women have children, this equilibrium starts to tremble, due to the lack of infrastructures (such as day-cares and schools). In the EU (European Union), comparing working women with small children and men in the same situation we can notice a big difference – 65.8% versus 89.1%, respectively.

In a study elaborated by the World Economic Forum, Iceland, Norway and Sweden occupy the first places in the countries with the smallest gender pay gaps.

This issue is not only in Portugal. All around the EU and the world, there are gender wage gaps. Over time, measures are being taken to resolve it. Iceland stood out, reducing significantly its gender wage gap, closing it in 85,8%.


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