Women in Health & Care Sector Earn 24% less than Men

ADDIS ABABA – Women in the health and care sector face a larger gender pay gap than in other economic sectors, earning on average of 24% less than peers who are men, says a new global report.

The joint report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) published today is the world’s most comprehensive analysis on gender pay inequities in health.

The report finds a raw gender pay gap of approximately 20 percentage points which jumps to 24 percentage points when accounting for factors such as age, education and working time. 

This highlights that women are underpaid for their labour market attributes when compared to men.

Much of the wage gap, the report notes, is unexplained, perhaps due to discrimination towards women – who account for 67% of health and care workers worldwide. 

The report also finds that wages in the health and care sector tend to be lower overall when compared with other economic sectors.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic and the crucial role played by health and care workers, there were only marginal improvements in pay equality between 2019 and 2020. 

“The health and care sector has endured low pay in general, stubbornly large gender pay gaps, and very demanding working conditions,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of Conditions of Work and Equality Department at the ILO. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic clearly exposed this situation while also demonstrating how vital the sector and its workers are in keeping families, societies and economies going,” said Tomei added.

The report finds a wide variation in gender pay gaps in different countries, suggesting that pay gaps in the sector are not inevitable and that more can be done to close these gaps. 

Within countries, gender pay gaps tend to be wider in higher pay categories, where men are over-represented. Women are over-represented in the lower pay categories. 

The analysis also looks at the factors that are driving the sector’s gender pay gaps. Differences in age, education, working time and the difference in the participation of men and women in the public or private sectors only address part of the problem. 

The reasons why women are less paid than men with similar labour market profiles in the health and care sector across the world remain, to a large extent, unexplained by labour market factors, it says. 

ILO’s equality department director Tomei said there will be no inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery without a stronger health and care sector.

“The time has arrived for decisive policy action, including the necessary policy dialogue between institutions,” Tomei said, “We hope this detailed and authoritative report will help stimulate the dialogue and action needed to create this.”