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Gender pay gap in Finland worse than in rest of Europe

Studies show that women in Finland earn on average 18 percent less than men. Experts interviewed by YLE's breakfast television programme on Wednesday said that the gender pay gap could grow even larger.

Outi Viitamaa-Tervonen (vas.) ja Anja Lahemaa
Outi Viitamaa-Tervonen (vas.) ja Anja Lahemaa Image: YLE

If the 18-percent gap is to be viewed as women only getting only 82 percent of men's salary, women in Finland are effectively not going to be paid for the work they do for the rest of this year as of Wednesday, according to the white-collar union confederation STTK.

The government programme aims to reduce the gap to a maximum of 15 percent. However Anja Lahermaa, a lawyer from the STTK, says this goal is unlikely to be met under the present economic conditions.

"The wage gap has been closing very slowly, and it’s not given that this will continue,” Lahermaa says.

The gender pay gap in Finland is slightly worse than the European average, which stands at 17.5 percent.

“The wage gap is a stain on Finland's reputation,” says Outi Viitamaa-Tervonen from the Ministry of Social Affairs at Health, who leads the government’s and labour confederations’ equal pay project.

Less appreciated

Tervonen offers several reasons for the differences in pay.

“There are fewer women in leadership positions, while the responsibility for childcare is distributed unevenly in families,” she explains. “Within sectors, women work in positions that are lower paid than men’s. Women’s work is appreciated less.”

This does not mean that women are paid less than men for carrying out exactly the same tasks. Rather, jobs in female-heavy sectors tend to draw lower salaries than jobs in industries dominated by men. In the same field, jobs usually held by women pay less than ones typically held by men.

According to Lahermaa, the problem is rooted so deeply that it’s difficult to make a change. She says that solving it requires cooperation between the government, the labour confederations, the trade unions and employers.

To help remedy the situation, Lahermaa stresses the importance of including additional paternity leave in the national framework deal on wage and conditions.

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