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Decreasing pay gap in Lithuania does not allow to conclude on consequences of the pandemic

In Lithuania, women still receive lower wages than male workers: such a pay gap last year accounted for 12.1 per cent, and, when compared with the data from 2019, decreased by 0.3 percentage points, according to the Department of Statistics. The Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson underlines that more positive rates do not allow us to unequivocally conclude on the economic situation in which female workers find themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pay gap reveals the difference between the gross hourly wage of female and male workers yet does not acknowledge the employment rate of the population. The latter rates are essential to assess the difficulties female and male workers endure in the labour market during the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing lockdowns.

Donatas Paulauskas, the Senior Advisor in the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, says that if judging only from the pay gap figures, it can be deduced there was neither national lockdown nor the pandemic since the rates are relatively similar to the ones from the previous years.

“It is indeed true that the lockdown did not stop the increase in wages and labour income. In fact, female workers witnessed their income grow even at faster rates than male due to the increase in wages of the public sector. However, according to SODRA (The State Social Insurance Fund), female workers faced greater employment issues. Since the start of the lockdown, more women than men lost their jobs, and later more men than women became employed. What we see is that the rates of long-term unemployment became adverse for females. Therefore, the lower pay gap, which is largely due to the increase in the wages in the public sector (in which there are more female workers), does not allow us to see the real economic situation of women,” says D. Paulauskas.

In the data of the Department of Statistics, it can be seen that the pay gap between sexes is closing more and more slowly. In 2018, the gap lessened by 1.1 percentage points; in 2019 – by 0.8; in 2020 - only by 0.3 points. The most significant pay gap can be identified in the financial and insurance activities sector (33.3 per cent). Only in 2 out of 18 sectors of economic activities females earned more, them being transportation and storage (-3.5 per cent), and construction (-1.8 per cent). In the public sector, the pay gap decreased from 14 to 11 per cent, whereas the private sector witnessed an increase from 14.4 to 15.7 per cent.

Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson Birutė Sabatauskaitė underlines that the pay gap has many causal factors, including longer career pauses due to childcare, the different share of males and females working in specific economic sectors, but also disparities in the negotiation power, discrimination based on sex, etc. Therefore, it is of crucial importance for both state institutions and private employers to address such an issue in earnest.

“The discourse on the pay gap had only intensified after the SODRA publicly announced the data on how wages paid are related to gender. The experience of other countries proves that transparency in this field is an efficient way to better inform job-seeking individuals and increase their negotiation power, but also to increase the awareness of the employers,” says the Ombudsperson.

Yet, the data on the relation between wages and gender has to be evaluated cautiously, according to B. Sabatauskaitė. Even if the newly published information shows a difference between male and female earnings in a company, it does not necessarily mean that the discrimination exists: only average wages are being shown, not taking into account neither positions nor the functions of the workers. The Ombudsperson says that such transparency should encourage employers themselves to indicate the reasons behind the pay gap in a company and, if needed, take action for tackling it.

Birutė Sabatauskaitė

Birutė Sabatauskaitė

Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson of the Republic of Lithuania

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