Gender Gap in Israel Matches EU Countries, Study Shows

Women paid 15% less hourly than men in 2012; smallest pay discrepancy for police officers, firefighters and prison guards, but disparities of more than 20% reported in engineering and architecture.

Hila Weissberg
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Hila Weissberg

The hourly pay disparity between Israeli men and women in 2012 was virtually identical to that of countries in the European Union, according to a new study. The Knesset Research and Information Center found that the gap in the average hourly wage here was 15%, compared to 15.5% on average in the EU.

The numbers are somewhat misleading, however, as they relate to hourly wages of men and women, whereas women on average are more likely to engage in part-time employment and therefore earn less on a monthly basis than their male counterparts.

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2012 the average monthly wage of women here was 34% less than men – 7,244 shekels compared to 10,953 shekels for men ($2,064 compared to $3,121). The gap is reduced to 15% when figured in terms of wages per hour: In 2012, men made an average of 55.10 shekels an hour, while women earned 46.80 shekels.

The findings appear in a report that addressed ways in which the salary gender gap here could be closed. According to the report, the EU country where the hourly gender wage disparity was the smallest was Slovenia, at 2.5%. It was the widest in Estonia, at 30%. The EU countries have seen a gradual narrowing of the gender wage gap from 16.3% in 2006 to 15.5% in 2012.

The gender gap remains even if the statistics are adjusted for age, education, number of children, job seniority and profession, the report notes, and may be the result of gender discrimination and a lack of transparency in wage scales.

As a result, a number of European parliaments have passed legislation requiring employers to conduct internal audits to weed out any such discrimination.

Similar legislation is being pushed by the chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid). The effort is being pursued in cooperation with the Israeli Women’s Network, a women’s rights lobbying organization.

Lavie’s bill, which has passed the first of three readings in the Knesset, would require employees with more than 100 employees to collect data on gender wage disparities.

Another provision of the bill, however – which would bar workers from disclosing salaries to their fellow employees – has engendered opposition from employers and has therefore been removed so it can be dealt with in separate legislation.

“Employers were afraid that this provision would allow access to the businesses’ private commercial information,” Lavie acknowledged, but she said the veil of secrecy must be cracked open and employers must be shown what is happening at their own places of employment.

“In many instances,” the Knesset report stated, “the female employee has a difficult time proving that she was discriminated against, either because she doesn’t have information about her male colleagues’ salaries or because of the difficulty in proving that the value of her work is equal to theirs.

Lavie and the “Equal Pay” project, which has been funded by the European Union and has the participation of a number of organizations, including the Israeli Women’s Network, reported last week on wage disparity statistics by profession here.

The smallest discrepancy was in the category of police officers, firefighters and prison guards, for whom the median monthly wage for women was 5,000 shekels (compared to 5,500 shekels for men). On the other hand, disparities of more than 20% were reported in the fields of engineering, architecture and administration.

“Despite legislation requiring equal pay for men and women, the statistics show large gaps,” said Lavie. “There are those who say that the legislation protecting women [actually] harms them, because employers will think twice before hiring a woman. The situation cannot be corrected unless men are with us in the battle for equality.”

“In most of the European Union countries, in addition to antidiscrimination legislation, [other] means are employed designed to prevent workplace discrimination against women and to narrow the gender salary gap,” the Knesset report noted. Sweden and Finland, for example, require employers to conduct wage audits similar to the one Lavie is seeking to institute. And in Estonia and Denmark, employers are specifically required to submit reports specifying by gender the wages paid to employees. In Austria, employers can be fined if they fail to produce an annual report on gender equality in their own workplaces. And in Belgium, if an employer’s report reveals gender inequality in what employees earn, it is required to devise a plan to narrow the disparity.

Women working at an Israeli factory. The percentage of women in the workforce has been steadily increasing as more older women delay retirement. Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
MK Aliza Lavie in the KnessetCredit: Emil Salman

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