Gender pay gap in Netherlands higher than EU average

Gender pay gap in Netherlands higher than EU average

Recent statistics published by the European Commission’s Eurostat agency show that the unadjusted gender pay gap in the Netherlands in 2012 was 17,3 per cent, higher than the EU average of 16,4 per cent.

In fact, the Netherlands has the 11th largest gender pay gap in the EU, higher than (among others) Italy, Belgium, France, Denmark and Sweden.

While the Netherlands was ranked 13 in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2013, the report did highlight the pay gap as one area that was more unequal than others.

Gender pay gap in Europe

Across the EU, the gender pay gap (GPG) varied greatly, from 2,5 per cent in Slovenia to 23 per cent in Estonia.

According to Eurostat, the proportion of women working and their characteristics are significantly different across the EU, due in great part to the institutions and attitudes in each country that govern the balance between work and private life that affect women's careers and thus their pay.

Part time vs. Full time

Overall differences in earnings between genders can be attributed to more women than men working part-time, due to family or other unpaid commitments, as well as the financial set-back that taking time out of the workforce to raise a family can have.

The actual pay gap in part-time work in the Netherlands is much lower than for full-time work and four times lower than in Germany, and ten times lower than in Spain.

Gender pay gap lowest among youth

Employees under 25 generally have a lower GPG: in the Netherlands it was actually in favour of women at -0,2 per cent.

As age increase, however, so does the pay gap, which in the Netherlands goes up to 3,3 per cent for 25 to 34 year olds, then 14,5 per cent in the 35 to 44 age bracket, reaching its highest point of over 23 per cent for ages 45 to 64.

The increasing gap with age is both a result of career interruptions for women due to childbirth and, in the case of the older age brackets, that those women were unable to benefit from specific equality measures when they started working.

Differences in areas of economic activity

The size of the GPG by economic activity differs greatly across the EU. In almost all states, the GPG is sizeably higher in the financial and insurance sector than in the business economy as a whole.

In the Netherlands, the GPG in that sector was 22,8 per cent. The highest gap, however, was in electricity and gas supply, which had a gap of 43 per cent. On the other hand, manufacturing, education, construction and arts and entertainment were all around the Dutch average.

Gender pay gap in Europe 2012

Public vs. Private

Across the EU, most countries had a higher GPG in the private sector than in the public sector, with the single exception of the Netherlands, in which the public sector gap (17,3 per cent) was almost exactly the same as the private sector one (17,4 per cent).

Gender pay gap as an indicator

The unadjusted gender pay gap (GPG) is defined as the relative percentage difference between the average gross hourly earnings of women and men.

Eurostat has defined it not unadjusted (i.e. not adjusted according to individual characteristics that may explain part of the earnings difference) because it is designed to give an overall picture of gender inequalities in pay.

The GPG is the consequence of various structural differences in labour markets, such as working patterns, institutional mechanisms and systems of wage setting. Thus, the gap is linked to legal, social and economic factors that go well beyond the singe issue of equal pay for equal work.

Dutch government action

The Dutch government has spoken in favour of closing the gender pay gap by getting more women into the workforce, encouraging labour participation and financial independence.

One government initiative to encourage equality is the rule, in force since January 2013, that boards of directors and supervisory boards for large companies must have a minimum of 30 per cent women and 30 per cent men.

The ruling leaves other areas outside large companies lagging behind in equality: in academia, for example, recent reports show that over two-thirds of supervisory boards in Dutch universities are made up of men, compared to a student population of which more than half are women.

Sources: Eurostat, Government of the Netherlands, Volkskrant

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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