The coronavirus pandemic will widen the Czech gender pay gap

With many people struggling due to the crisis, job security is seen as more important than making gains in equality

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 01.09.2020 10:27 (updated on 01.09.2020)

The coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on wage inequality in the Czech Republic, with the gender gap expected to widen. It is already one of the largest gaps in Europe.

The gap in average wages between men and women was slowly closing, and would have been been cut in half by 2050, if the trend from before the pandemic continued.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase women’s inequality in the labor market, as the crisis is the sectors most affected by women — culinary arts, hospitality, and civic services,” Lenka Vokáčová, recruitment specialist at ManpowerGroup, told new server Aktualne.cz.

Currently, due to the shift to online working and automation, there is demand for people with technical education, where men are predominantly represented. Salaries in those fields are growing the fastest.

According to statistics released by the EU statistical arm Eurostat in early March 2020, based on data from 2018, the gender gap in was the third-worst in the EU-27, with women earning 20.1% less than men based on the average gross hourly earnings. Figures from the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ) show a similar long-term trend.

gender pay cap
Gender pay gap via Eurostat

The gender gap according to Eurostat was highest for women between the ages of 35 to 44, at 25.0%, and lowest for people under 25 years of age, at 10.4%. “The gender pay gap is generally much lower for new labor market entrants and tends to widen with age. … The gender pay gap might increase with age as a result of the career interruptions women experience during their working life,” Eurostat said.

The EU average was 14.8%, with Estonia worst at 22.7% and Romania the best at 3.0%.

Andrea Palánová, human resources management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told Aktualne.cz. that the current crisis is likely to make wage equality less of an important issue to employers, and that people who have kept their jobs are unlikely to rock the boat by demanding raises. Instead, employees will see job security as the key issue.

Demand for people has increased in healthcare, care services, and grocery stores, all fields where women are highly represented. Incomes in these areas are below-average, and expected to stay that way. As women fill these low-pay positions, while men fill the high-pay IT and technical jobs, it will serve to widen the gender pay gap.

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Single women are also more likely to work in unstable positions, without a monthly contract that specifies a fixed number of hours. These people lost their income significantly more often during the pandemic, as it is easier for employers to cut them off, according to labor experts.

Economist Kamila Fialová, who recently won the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Otto Wichterle Award, in July said that women would be more heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, as they often work in jobs with nonstandard contracts that don’t provide employment protection. Lower income people also lack economic reserves and can find themselves in financial trouble faster than people with higher incomes.

In June, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) in a report said the Czech Republic has violated the European Social Charter by not securing transparency in the remuneration of men and women and their balanced representation in firms’ management.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) in 2019 put the Czech Republic in 21st place out of 28 then-EU members in its the Gender Equality Index, saying that little progress has been made since 2005, though it did show gains in employment.

In the long run, the lower incomes for women have a negative impact on their pensions. Last year, the Business for Society platform pointed out that the difference between the average old-age pensions for women are 18% lower than for men.