In a recently published study Switzerland has the 10th highest gender pay gap in Europe.
Switzerland’s gap of 17% is bigger than Italy’s (5.3%), Luxembourg’s (5.5%), Belgium’s (6.1%), Sweden’s (13.3%), Spain’s (14.2%), Denmark’s (15%), France’s (15.2%) or the Netherlands’ (15.6%), but lower than Finland’s (17.4%), Portugal’s (17.5%), Austria’s (20.1%), the UK’s (21%) or Germany’s (21.5%).
Confusion around aggregate pay gap figures leads some to conclude women are getting paid less for doing the same work. However, much of the difference can be explained by different pay for different jobs. A study by Korn Ferry shows that gender pay differences in Switzerland disappear almost entirely when pay is compared on a job-for-job basis.
Gender pay gaps often have more to do with the jobs that men and women find themselves in than getting paid more or less for the same job.
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In the past, big gender differences in overall rates of tertiary education was one of the things that lay behind the lack of women in top jobs. However, this gap has closed. In 2016, almost 50% of those in tertiary education in Switzerland were women, up from 44% in 2004.
So why does the pay gap persist?
There are many reasons, such as the challenges of juggling child care and work, a responsibility that falls more heavily on women. Another is differences in what men and women study..
In Switzerland, men continue to dominate study in fields that are more likely to lead to highly paid jobs. Women, on the other hand, dominate humanities and social science subjects, which tend to lead to lower paid public sector jobs. In 2017, women made up 74% of university students studying human and social sciences, while men made up 59% of those studying natural sciences and 68% of those studying technical science subjects, qualifications in high demand in the private sector.
Another factor is time. It takes time for shifts in education and attitudes to reach the workplace. In 2007, Switzerland’s gender pay gap was 24%. By 2016, it was 17%.