US gender wage gap narrowed significantly since 1980: Study

WASHINGTON (AFP) – American women are catching up to men, at least in terms of wages, according to a study published on Thursday showing the pay gap between the sexes has narrowed considerably since 1980.

Wage gains for women have been driven by the rapid increase in jobs requiring “social” skills and higher skills, such as critical thinking, where women now represent a majority, according to the report by the Pew Research Center, an independent American research institute.

In less than 40 years, the average hourly wages of women have jumped 45 per cent, to USD22 dollars in 2018 from USD15, while pay for men increased 14 per cent in that period.

But men’s wages remain above what women earn at USD26 an hour, and women still comprise a smaller share of the workforce.

“The growing presence of women in higher-skill occupations has contributed to more rapid wage growth for them in recent decades compared with men, and this helped to narrow the gender wage gap,” the report said.

Women are better represented in the most demanding jobs requiring social skills (coaching, therapists) and “fundamental” or critical thinking skills (neuropsychologists, science teachers, lawyers), careers that grew rapidly during this period.

The report attributes the persistent, though narrower, gender pay gap to a variety of factors, some of which are measurable, like job skills, education level, work experience, union membership and hours worked.

“Others such as discrimination, differences in professional networks, and responsibilities associated with motherhood and caregiving are difficult to measure,” the report said.

And while the gender wage gap has faded, in 2018 the labour force participation rate of prime age women (25-54) was 75.3 per cent compared to 89 per cent for men, according to the Labor Department.