Économie et Statistique n° 398-399 - 2006Women and Men: Differences and Inequalities
Can the Gender Wage Gap Go further down?
In 2002, the differential between the average monthly wage of women and men was 25.3%,hardly one point of percentage less than in 1990. Moreover, the components of this wage gap have remained steady, whether they be structural, i.e. resulting from differences in the individuals productive characteristics and the jobs held, or whether they result from the differences in the returns to these characteristics. Over the period studied, the distribution of wages remains largely stable over this period, within the context of low wage rises. Finally, for any given year during this period, 75% of the wage differential results from differences in job structures, with working hours being the most important element. The persistence of the gender wage differential and its enduring composition can be considered as surprising: the education level of women is now higher, on average, than that of men and continues to rise, and the law prohibits discrimination of any kind and promotes professional equality. Furthermore, during the period studied, the reform of the Allocation Parentale d'Education (the French child-raising allowance) in 1994 and the reform of the 35-hours week could well have impacted on the wage differential. However, these trends, like these major changes, seem to have had very little effect on the distribution of women and men between jobs, positions, sectors and working hours. This is the principal source of the gender wage gap and the main reason for its persistence. The gender wage gap could be narrowed further, if the levers are found to change behaviours and professional choices.