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Women in Spain earn 13% less than men for similar work, new study shows

Pay gap occurs across all observed variables, including age, education and years of service

A gender pay gap exists in Spain adjusting for all observable variables. Getty

Men and women who perform similar tasks in the workplace do not earn the same in Spain. Women’s hourly earnings are 12.7% lower than men’s, according to a study that is based on statistically adjusted EU data from 2014.

This figure is lower than in 2002, the first year covered by the research, but it still evidences “some worrisome dynamics.” The gap exists across variables such as age, education, years of service, occupation, type of contract, length of working day, activity and company size.

Paying a woman less than a man for the same position has been illegal since 1980

Gender pay gap deniers have long claimed that these differences in earnings stem from the fact that women tend to work fewer paid hours, have more precarious jobs, perform lower-paid work and have fewer job responsibilities. Yet this claim now appears to have been debunked by the adjusted figures, which emerge from a research project funded by the Foundation for Applied Economic Studies (FEDEA), and to which EL PAÍS has had access.

The study was headed by José Ignacio Ruiz-Conde, a Spanish economist who teaches at Madrid’s Complutense University and is deputy director at FEDEA, a think tank that conducts research on economic and social issues affecting Spain and is sponsored by major Spanish firms such as banks Santander and BBVA, and utilities such as Iberdrola.

The project used data from the EU’s Structure of Earnings Survey for 2014, the most recent available year, which show that a woman’s hourly earnings are 14.9% lower than a man’s. But this figure is unadjusted and does not necessarily mean that the jobs are similar, or even comparable. In order to achieve a more homogeneous comparison, FEDEA researchers adjusted the figures according to impact on wages caused by variables such as age, experience, contract type and others.

Women tend to be worse negotiators than men when they are negotiating something for themselves

But researchers note that the Eurostat survey “does not contain information about the number of children or the socioeconomic traits of people who could have joined the workforce but didn’t.”

The result of this research is a pay gap of nearly 13%, compared with nearly 15% in the EU survey. If annual earnings are considered instead – and these are what really determine a person’s quality of life – the gap reaches 23% (€20,051.58 for women versus €25,992.76 for men).

Paying a woman less than a man for the same position has been illegal since 1980. These statistical analyses do not claim that this is happening, since the data is not detailed enough to know whether two individuals are performing the exact same job in the same company and with the same collective bargaining agreement.

Instead, these studies “measure whether men and women are receiving similar pay for similar tasks.” And that is where a pay gap shows up across variables.

“Worrisome dynamics”

The FEDEA report notes that “significant progress has been made, adjusting for all observable characteristics, as the gap has shrunk by a third since 2002,” the starting year for the analysis. This progress is tied to “education, experience and average years of service.” However, the study adds that “we are still far from gender equilibrium, and a few worrisome dynamics persist.”

One of these is the fact that “the gap increases with age.” Women under 30 earn 4.7% less, and this percentage rises progressively to 17.2% among women over 59. Maternity could be an explanation, but researchers warn that the survey does not contain information about personal family circumstances, and so “it is not possible to estimate the effect” of child-rearing on pay gaps.

Researchers also suggested, based on an analysis of other studies, that the pay gap could also be influenced by the fact that “women tend to be worse negotiators than men when they are negotiating something for themselves.”

English version by Susana Urra.