Covid had smaller impact on Women's situation in labor market than expected

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Empty cafe in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The coronavirus crisis has not impacted women in Estonia as negatively as predicted a year ago as wage disparity between men and women has declined and unemployment has grown less among women than among men, Swedbank senior economist Liis Elmik has said.

"Even though the number of people employed in services, where women account for the majority, decreased last year, employment among men declined more than among women. This is attributable to the number of employees decreasing in transport, car dealership and forestry, where the share of men is higher," Elmik said.

Women's gross hourly wage was 15.6 percent lower compared with that of men in 2020. The gender pay gap meanwhile declined by 1.5 percentage points year over year.

The gender pay gap declined in most sectors and most of all in construction, agriculture and commerce. The gap grew in tourism, which has been hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis.

Elmik said that as women's wages are lower than those of men and they engage more frequently in part-time employment, their income is significantly smaller. 18 percent of women were working part time last year, compared with just 9 percent of men. Lower income affects the coping and economic well-being of women and their children.

"Contractual workers' average gross income was higher among men by a quarter compared with women in 2019. The disparity was largest in Sillamäe and Kohtla-Järve where men earned on average 40 percent more. Income levels were most equal on Kihnu and Ruhnu islands where men earner 13 percent more than women," the economist said.

The gender pay gap is large in European states where the employment rate is high among women, in addition to Estonia such countries include for instance Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

"While in many states, a large share of women are not working, in Estonia, 75 percent of women aged 20 to 64 are employed," she added.

Compared with men, women do less paid work and more domestic work per day - in 2010 domestic work done by women exceeded that done by men by 11 hours per week.

"During the period of home offices and distance learning, the burden of taking care of the family increased several-fold. A survey commissioned by Swedbank shows that work efficiency declined notably more among parents when working from home compared with families without children. The drop in productivity was largest in families with children of pre-school age," Elmik noted.

The gender pay gap is partially attributable to Estonia's long and favorable paid parental leave, which is predominantly used by women.

"Broken down by age group, the gender pay gap is largest in the 35-44 age bracket marking the age when women return to the labor market after parental leave. Women lose 4-9 percent of their salary after becoming a parent," Elmik said.

The likelihood of men working in higher paid managerial positions or in jobs relating to technology is also higher. 63 percent of management positions were held by men in 2020 and there were around twice as many men in IT compared with women.

Women are more often employed in services, such as education and trade, where the average salary is lower.

"Different positions held by men and women within one sector also explain the large pay gap in finance," the economist added.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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