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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 08-03-2024 06:10

Georgina Sticco: What do we mean when we talk about the gender gap?

Women would have to work 91 days more than men to earn the same as them. Time dedicated to caregiving, lower quality jobs and remuneration in the unregistered sector are some of the things that produce this difference.

To start 2024, my NGO Grow, Género y Trabajo, together with LatinGráfica, created a calendar called "The 91-day gap,” to make visible the wage gap affecting women in the Argentine labour market.

The calendar has a few extra work days each month, which, throughout the year, add up to 91 days total. This number represents how much extra time women in Argentina have to work to earn the same as men.

Why 91 days? This number represents a 25 percent difference between the average earnings of men and women (INDEC, 2023). The difference is due to several reasons, among them that women are concentrated in lower-paying jobs, work part-time or are in informal jobs. The number, therefore, hides various inequalities. The important thing is to analyse it and understand what it means, and what is behind it, since the gap has remained stable in recent decades.

The fundamental reason behind Argentina's wage gap has to do with the unequal distribution of domestic and unpaid care tasks. Women spend six hours a day on these tasks, while men spend less than half (INDEC, 2022). Changing cultural patterns on how to distribute the burden of these tasks, as well as having extended parental or paternity leave, are also essential to generate a more equitable environment. As of today, the greater the presence of children in the home, the more women work fewer hours than men, which reduces their income; in households with two or more children, the wage gap increases to 35 percent (FES, 2018).

On the other hand, the gap varies according to workers’ levels of qualification; in operational positions, the gap is reduced to two percent. This is due to the importance of collective bargaining agreements, which ensure equal pay for all people. In contrast, in the informal sector, the wage gap rises to 36 percent (INDEC, 2023).

It is important to analyse this situation sector-by-sector, to understand which factors have a particular impact on each one. For example, it is striking that even in feminised sectors there is a wage gap.

In commerce and health, two of the sectors with the highest female presence, the gap is 36 percent and 32 percent respectively (Economy Ministry, 2022).

This has to do with the roles that women occupy in those places. In this case, the reading is clear: Although they are the main workforce, women do not occupy decision-making positions.

The lack of access to leadership positions is something that happens in all sectors of the economy – only two out of 10 board positions are held by women (INDEC, 2023, and CNV). This has to do with the aforementioned inequality in the distribution of domestic tasks, which generates barriers in women's careers, and with biases related to what is expected of a leader.

The purpose of the calendar is to raise awareness of this reality and to call for action. The concept of "gender wage gap" was born 40 years ago, and it is still valid today. Grow, Género y Trabajo believes it is essential to make this gap visible, since it demonstrates an unequal distribution of income, which can be modified with clear policies to allow changing the structures which sustain inequality.

What can organisations do? Businesses can communicate salary bands to generate greater transparency, periodically affirm that the performance evaluation process does not harm people who take extended leaves of absence, adapt objectives and guarantee salary adjustments and systematically analyse the salary gap and develop corrective measures in cases where it is detected.

It is important to be able to read what the gap means in an organisation. If this gap is maintained over the years, it implies that the organisation is not making structural changes which would allow more women to join the higher-paying jobs.

On the other hand, it is important for governments to implement a comprehensive care system, and it is essential to have leaves of equal length for men and women.

Without these changes, we live in an unequal context, where women have less economic autonomy, making it difficult for them to make free decisions about their lives.

by Georgina Sticco, Director and Co-Founder at Grow Género y Trabajo

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