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Gender pay gap gets worse in Switzerland

Pay inequality has been at the centre of intense public debate, as evidenced by this protest in Geneva in 2018. © Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Swiss women continue to be paid less than men, particularly in the public sector. The so-called gender wage gap got marginally worse between 2014 and 2018 despite persistent political efforts to tackle wage packet inequality.

This content was published on February 22, 2021 - 10:59
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On average, women were paid 19% less than male counterparts in the same job in 2018 compared to an 18.1% discrepancy in 2014. The latest figures from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) cover a period of intense public and political debate about the issue, which culminated in a new law in December 2018. Companies with over 100 employees now have to conduct regular gender pay audits and inform employees and shareholders of the results.

The gender wage gap remained roughly the same for the private sector as a whole, but with significant differences between individual sectors. Women were awarded considerably less pay than men in banking and insurance jobs compared to the hospitality industry. In government and local authority jobs, the gap increased from 16.6% to 18.1% in the four-year period.

The FSO figures, released on Monday, also found that excuses for pay discrepancies are wearing thinner. Part of the gap can be explained away by differences in age, work experience and educational qualifications. But the percentage of “unexplained” cases rose from 42.4% in 2014 to 45.4% in 2018. This was particularly pronounced in small companies with less than 20 employees.

This means that CHF684 of extra monthly pay for the average male worker in the private sector appears to have no rational basis. The public sector, which saw a rise in disparity overall, saw fewer unexplained cases of pay difference between men and women in the period covered. However, this still left an average CHF602 extra pay for men each month unaccounted for.

The survey showed that the majority (60.9%) of low paid jobs (less than CHF4,000 or $4,461) were held by women, but this proportion is falling. Four out of five top wage earners (more than CHF16,000 per month) were men in 2018.

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