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Will gender pay gap disappear in a century?

A recent report from the World Economic Forum reveals that it will take another century, or exactly 118 years for the gender pay gap to be erased. The date in this Global Gender Gap Report was estimated based on the change rate in the economic gender gap.

According the report, an average annual salary for a full-time working woman is $11,102, just half of that for a full-time working men. Women’s current salary nearly equals that of men’s ten years ago, even if inflation is taken into consideration.

A female worker in a textile factory in China

Of one hundred and forty-five nations participating in the research, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland are the top ones that have made the greatest advancement towards gender pay equality, while the United States stands only at No. 28 on the list.

Economic experts agree that the gender gap is difficult to change, but some of them disagree with the methodology that the report authors adopted to forecast when the disappearance of this issue will be.

Professor Purvi Sevak from the Economics Department at Hunter College said that wage gap is driven by many factors. In Pakistan, for example, women prefer staying at home to going to work because wages are very low.

Professor Claudia Goldin from Harvard University believed this inequality issue was oversimplified. She thought people have to be clear about gender equality, and cautious about what is evaluated.

The difference between the highest paid and the lowest paid in the labor force, also known as the distribution rates, was not included in the report released by the Word Economic Forum, but it is critical to calculate the overall ratios for countries, said Ms. Goldin.

The Henry Lee Professor of Economics added that the United States has a very wide distribution rate, while Sweden has a narrow one. Therefore, if the report authors considered this rate, the US may not rank low on the list.

Mr. Sevak pointed out two positive, growing trends that could accelerate the narrowing process of the pay gap between men and women, which are more women entering engineering, an advanced technical field that is now in great demand for workforce, and more men taking paternity leave.

Ms. Goldin thinks that if the latter trend develops, men could begin to experience difficult issues women have to deal with when they take maternity leave or take more days off to take care of their children, which results in negative effects on their careers.

Neither Professor Sevak nor Professor Goldin risks making a guess when the gender pay inequality would disappear, as they do not believe there is enough information to do that now.  

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