There isn’t a single country in the world where women earn more than men, or even as much as them, according to new data on gender equity released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
It doesn’t happen in wealthy nations, where the male-to-female gap in average annual income ranges from $12,500 in Greece ($35,500 for men versus $23,000 for women) to $62,000 in Qatar ($104,000 compared to $42,000). Nor in poor countries, where the gaps are smaller—$129 in Burundi, $209 in Mozambique—but still a significant percentage of earnings. (The average male income in Burundi is $797 a year; in Mozambique, it’s $1,307.)
The wage gap is a function of nothing but discrimination. The UNDP report shows it clearly, given that women don’t earn less than men only in countries where they have the same or lower levels of education (which is also, in itself, an expression of discrimination). It sounds reasonable that less education leads to lower-level jobs, explaining lower income. But as the report found, for women, higher levels of education (and presumably, higher-level jobs) still lead to less money.
The UNDP data shows that there are 56 countries where the average years of schooling for women are more than for men. It’s usually a small difference: from two years to a month or so.
Yet despite their academic efforts, women don’t earn as much as men in any of those nations. In fact, the opposite is true: Qatar is the country with the largest income gap between men and women, and also the one where women spend the most time more than men in school (two years). In Kuwait, where women devote an average of 1.2 years more than men to schooling, they make $40,000 a year less.
Other striking examples are Ireland, where men make $30,000 more than women who spend four months more than them in school, and Denmark, where women put in the same extra time, only to earn $21,000 a year less. Similarly, in Norway, women spend three more months in school to make $19,000 less than men. In the US, where women study a month more than men on average, their average income is $27,000 less per year.
For a long time, there was an association between lower educational opportunities for girls and female earning potential, but the UNDP report shows that even when that playing field is level, the income gap persists. “Average income gaps between women and men are correlated more strongly with measures of gender social norms than with gaps in education,” it states.
The discrepancy is even wider when one considers the huge amount of unpaid domestic work that women do around the world. This too is a function of bias: In countries with bigger gender equity gaps, women tend to spend more time on domestic work.