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Why Women still earn only 75 cents for every $1 a man earns ?

Megha Viswanath 22nd Feb 2021


The gender pay gap is a widely recognized indicator of women’s economic inequality, and it exists across industries and professional levels. Despite the continued efforts of activists and policymakers, in many ways, gender equality is still a pipe dream. Research shows gender discrimination mostly against women and in favour of men in many realms, including the workplace.

What is gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap or gender wage gap is the average difference between the remuneration for men and women who are working. Women are generally considered to be paid less than men. However, there are several factors that need to be analyzed within this issue. Since it takes into account the earnings of all employed women, there are several reasons why there is a wide wage gap between the employment of the two genders owing to discrimination in terms of opportunity, education, etc.

Facts about the Gender Pay Gap-Globally

Worldwide, women only make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. As a result, there’s a lifetime of income inequality between men and women and more women are retiring into poverty. For women of colour, immigrant women and mothers, the gap widens. The so-called “motherhood penalty” pushes women into informal economy, casual and part-time work, and tends to be larger in developing countries than in developed countries.

Around the world, only 19% of firms have at least one woman on their managerial team. A firm that has more women managers tends to employ more women workers, which explains the gender pay gaps in those countries. The issue of a gender pay gap is persistent across countries and cultures all around the world, though some countries have been making strides in reducing the gap over the last 50 years. Iceland has the lowest gender pay gap, followed by Norway, Sweden, and Finland. On the other hand, Yemen has the highest gender pay gap, followed by Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria. In 1970, the UK had a 47.6% difference between the median earnings of men and women, while as of 2016, the difference was 16.8%. The U.S. had a 38.1% difference in 1973, while the difference was 18.1% in 2016.

What contributes to the gap in India?

In India especially, the gap is exacerbated by the social and structural oppression that women have to face. The skewed sex ratio in labour participation is one of the largest reasons behind this widening gap. Women in India have to deal with a set of complex issues ranging from less access to education to social stigma surrounding work after marriage/childbirth.

Reasons behind widening gender pay gap:

  • Occupational preferences - The rate of female participation in the paid labor market is generally low, and is primarily concentrated in rural areas in the agricultural sector.

  • Cultural barriers - While social and cultural norms vary from state to state within India, one commonality that has been observed is the exclusion of women from the paid labor market and status based segregation of labor.

  • Childcare is viewed primarily as a woman's job. Women often take part-time jobs or take time off during their careers to care for their families. When women return to work after a break, they are paid lower wages than their male colleagues.

  • Education and training - The literacy rate for women in India is far lower than the rate for men, and it has been observed that many girls drop out of school and fail to fully complete their education. Investment in education and training has also been strongly in favor of men as they are brought up with the expectation of being bread earners, and hence this investment is considered necessary for their success, while women are instead viewed as "future homemakers" for whom education may not be as essential.

  • Unpaid work- According to the Human Development Report 1995, women spend about two-thirds of their working time on unpaid work, while men spend only one-fourth of their time towards unpaid labor. It has been estimated in India that women on average work twenty-one more hours than men during each week.

Legislative protections

The Constitution of India attempt to ensure that there is no prevalence of gender pay gap. These articles of the Constitution are as follows:

Article 14:Men & women to have equal rights & opportunities in the political, economic & social spheres.

Article 15(1): Prohibits discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex etc.

Article 15(3):Special provision enabling the State to make affirmative discriminations in favour of women.

Article 16:Equality of opportunities in matter of public appointments for all citizens.

Article 39(a): The State shall direct its policy towards securing all citizens men and women, equally, the right to means of livelihood.

Article 39(d): Equal pay for equal work for both men and women

Article 42:The State to make provision for ensuring just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

Article 51 (A) (e): To renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women.

The Indian Government has passed various Acts to ensure equal pay and equal treatment at workplace. These Acts are as follows:

Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923:

Aimed at providing financial protection to the workmen & his / her dependents in case of accidental injury by means of payment of compensation by a certain class of employers.

Due to the difference in bargaining power there are chances that the woman may be subject to exploitation. This act helps to avoid that risk.

Minimum Wages Act, 1948: To provide for a statutory fixation of minimum wages, since workers are poorly organized & have a less bargaining power in India. There is no different wages paid for women workers.

Factories Act, 1948: Introduced to regulate the condition of labourers employed in the factories.

Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970: Provides for the separate provision for utilities and fixed working hours for women.

Equal Remuneration Act of 1976:

Provides for equal pay to men & women for equal work.

Act was enacted keeping in mind the unequal physical & sociological burden a woman faces at the time of child bearing & rearing.


The gender pay gap is a broadly recognized mark of women’s economic inequality, and it exists across industries and professional levels. The gender pay gap is essentially the average difference between the remuneration received by working men and women. There are many factors that contribute to Gender Pay Gap. One significant one is the cumulative set of life events and experiences that a woman undergoes right from her birth. In order to reduce the Gender Pay Gap in India, we need to ensure more women enter the workforce, continue working through different life stages and reach senior or leadership levels.

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