"[I]t is understood that while a simple measure of the gender pay gap serves to attract the attention of the general public and policy-makers to the problem of unequal pay between women and men, it remains a very imperfect indicator of inequality, needing to be further analysed and refined if it is to adequately inform policy-making. A gender pay gap measured simply – the so-called “raw” or unadjusted gender pay gap – can arise for a multitude of different reasons, including, among others: differences between female and male educational attainments; lower wages in the sectors and occupations in which women are concentrated; differences between female and male participation rates in part-time and full-time work, which are in turn influenced by women’s role as mothers and their care responsibilities; and discrimination in pay between women and men performing equal work or work of equal value. The most appropriate mix of policy responses will differ across countries, depending on which factors have the largest impact on the gender pay gap in each national context."As one example of the issues, here are two figures on the raw gender wage gap across countries. The first looks at wages per hour; the second looks at earnings per month. Thus, the second figure reflects both lower wages and lower average hours for women.
"[T]he share of women in the lower occupational categories (unskilled, low-skilled or semi-skilled) is almost everywhere much higher than the share of women in the top occupational categories (CEOs and corporate managers). For example, in Finland, only 20 per cent of CEOs are women, whereas about 70 per cent of semi-skilled jobs are occupied by women. This illustrates “vertical occupational segregation” – that is, the clustering of men at the top of occupational hierarchies and of women at the bottom."A second pattern is that firms that employ a larger share of women tend to pay lower wages.
"[T]the low labour market participation of women vis-à-vis men is a global phenomenon. Irrespective of income level, in all countries and at any age group, women’s participation rates are always below those of men. ... [F]or most countries, the trend in participation rates for women starts to separate further from that of men at about the age of 25–35 years old, coinciding with the beginning of the period of motherhood. Finally, in only a few of the countries shown here (Armenia, Australia, Mongolia, Philippines, Russian Federation, Ukraine) is there any “bounce back” into the labour market for women. In most other countries, it seems that motherhood has a long-term effect: once the participation of women declines at around the age of 25–30 years, the proportion of women who stay in (or out) of the labour market across all other age groups thereafter remains constant until approximately retirement age. ... Globally, women are still substantially less likely than men to participate in the labour market. The global gap in labour force participation has been estimated at 27 percentage points, and participation gaps remain particularly wide in the Arab States, northern Africa and southern Asia, in each case exceeding 50 percentage points.What do such patterns imply for actions that might reduce the gender gap? The ILO report discusses a wide variety of possibilities, including collective bargaining, minimum wages, and others. Here, I'll focus on my thoughts about some policies with a more direct relationship to the gender gap.