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The Salaries of Men and Women: Where is the Gap Even Greater than in Russia?

RUSSIA -- An elderly woman walks past a sports goods shop with pigeons flying around in downtown Moscow, August 8, 2018
RUSSIA -- An elderly woman walks past a sports goods shop with pigeons flying around in downtown Moscow, August 8, 2018
Valentina Matvienko

Valentina Matvienko

Chairperson of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation

“In our country, the average salary of women is 74% of the average salary of men. However, you can console yourself with the fact that in 2005 this figure was only 60%. It seems that there have been changes for the better. But the gap still persists, and it is large.”

According to international statistics, there are only a few countries where the gap is greater than in Russia.

On average, women earn 23 percent less than men worldwide, according to data from the International Labor Organization (ILO). In other words, the average female wage is 77% of the average male. And in the absence of targeted action, ILO experts say, "pay equity between women and men will not be achieved before 2086.”

In Russia, based on the results of 2017, the average total salary of women was 71.7% of the average salary of men, according to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat). Matvienko said the average salary for Russian women is 74% of the average salary of men, and it is possible that this number has increased since the end of 2017 and not yet reflected in the official statistics. On the other hand, judging by the dynamics in recent years, it is doubtful that such an increase has taken place.

If we proceed from Rosstat’s estimates, the gap between the salaries of men and women in Russia is 28.3%. After shrinking to its lowest level in 2013 (25.8%), it has since increased.

RUSSIA -- Tyumen; April; 21; 2018: Factory for the production of glass bottles. Women check glass bottles
RUSSIA -- Tyumen; April; 21; 2018: Factory for the production of glass bottles. Women check glass bottles

International statistics on this issue, oddly enough, cover only about a quarter of the world's countries - if we take into account direct estimates of the gender wage gap expressed as a percentage. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) provides such figures for 40-45 countries, while the ILO provides them for 45-50 countries and Eurostat for 30-32 countries. And most European countries, of course, are represented in all three lists.

However, the methodology differs. For example, the OECD estimates the “median” wage gap between men and women in each country (the level at which exactly half of workers earn less and the other half earn more).

Eurostat estimates the difference in the hourly salary, which is usually less than the monthly or annual salary, because women tend to work fewer hours than men.

The ILO, for its part, often proceeds from estimates of weekly, monthly or annual wages. And Russia’s Rosstat, in turn, compares the country's average accrued salary for men and women.

Nevertheless, if we try to bring together the available data of different organizations (excluding estimates that come from hourly pay), there are only a few countries today in which the gender wage gap is even greater than in Russia. These include some of the former Soviet republics -- Azerbaijan (roughly 53%), Georgia (roughly 38%), Kazakhstan and Armenia (roughly 33%). Other countries include Nepal (roughly 41%) and Ethiopia (roughly 31%). These estimates are based on a graph from the ILO’s “Women at Work Trends 2016” report, which did not provide precise figures for every country mentioned.

Our chart below is based on data specified in the in the relevant materials of the OECD, ILO and Rosstat. As ILO experts have pointed out, the gender gap can be wide or narrow and independent of a country's level of development. Other factors are at play here -- in particular, policies, “which explain the heterogeneity in outcomes across countries,” as the ILO put it.

Factograph Chart -- Wages and The Gender Gap
Factograph Chart -- Wages and The Gender Gap

The gender pay gap also varies according to the age of the worker. We tried to calculate the corresponding figures for Russia and for the European Union countries using available statistical estimates. It is also hard to compare directly here: for example, Eurostat bases its estimates on European enterprises with 10 or more employees, while Rosstat bases its estimates on mid-sized enterprises (employing 101-250 people) and even larger enterprises. Using the data of both we calculated some average values.

In most countries, the gender pay gap is highest among high-ranking employees, while in Russia it is among middle-level specialists, as noted in last year's report by FBK Grant Thornton, a leading Russian audit and consulting company. The authors of the report, like experts at the ILO, concluded there is no clear relationship between the dynamics of economic growth and the gender pay gap. Still, they said long-term trend is obvious: as an economy develops, this gap narrows.

Adapted from