The Covid-19 pandemic set back decades of progress towards gender equality, according to a report by the International Labour Organization. On average, the report says, women are currently paid 20% less than men globally.
Significant gender wage gap disparities continue in many of the world’s developed countries. South Korea, Israel, Latvia, Japan, Cyprus, and Estonia all have gender wage gaps above the global average, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The US, Canada, Finland, and France are not far behind, with each having a wage gap of 15% or more. In 2022, American women earned an average of 82% of what men earned, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released this month. The gap has barely closed since 2002, when American women earned 80% as much as their male counterparts.
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South Korea has ranked towards the top of the list for more than three decades, though the country has improved since the late 1990s, when the gender disparity was over 40%. During the first half of 2020, 56% of South Korean women said they spent more time taking care of their family than they did before the pandemic began. That same year, 62% of South Koreans that took family leave were women.
In 2020, South Korea also instituted new financial incentives for families to have children due to the declining birth rate. But the longer a woman takes for maternity leave, the wider the wage gap between her and her male counterparts, according to a report by The Borgen Project focused on poverty and hunger. The study found that women in South Korea returning from maternity leave tend to find lower wages, less prestigious jobs, and fewer benefits.
Countries with higher overall wages like Switzerland and the US tend to have higher wage gaps, given that it’s possible to offer comparatively lower salaries and still attract workers. Gender wage gaps tend to be less marked in countries like India and Vietnam where pay is minimal across the board.