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Slight progress in Finland: Equal Pay Day nudges forward into November

The gap between men’s and women’s wages has narrowed by half a percentage point in the past year in Finland. Still, much more needs to be done, say union leaders.

Seteleitä naisen kädessä.
A 'woman's euro' is worth just under 84 cents, according to Statistics Finland. Image: Lehtikuva

November 2 is being observed as Equal Pay Day in Finland this year. Starting on Saturday, women will in effect be working for free until the end of the year compared to their male counterparts.

The date is based on Statistics Finland data showing that the gender pay gap in the country in the second quarter of this year was 16.1 percent.

Last year the date – corresponding to the number of days left in the year – was October 31. In other words, the gap between men’s and women’s wages has narrowed by half a percentage point since then.

"Narrowing at a snail’s pace, if at all"

Responding to the latest figures, Katarina Murto, director of the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK), noted that it is impossible to make predictions about the future development of the wage gap based on a single year’s data.

“The wage gap is narrowing at a snail’s pace, if at all. The most realistic way to bring about wage equality would be a reform of family leave, which unfortunately has not advanced during this legislative term either,” she said in a statement on Friday.

Murto said that the slight narrowing of the gap was somewhat surprising as usually men’s salaries rise faster than those of women during periods of economic upswing.

“That is because men more frequently work in the private sector, where there are more wage fluctuations. On the other hand, the ever-increasing education level among women also helps to balance out the wage gap,” she said.

Besides a revision of rules on parental leave, the STTK is also lobbying for more wage transparency as a means to boost equality. The federation includes 16 unions representing more than half a million salaried employees.

"The issue is very simple"

Meanwhile the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy) points out that the country’s labour market remains split by gender. For instance, the health and social services branch is still heavily dominated by women, who make up 92 percent of Tehy’s members.

According to Tehy President Millariikka Rytkönen, salary equality will not advance unless wages are raised in the social and healthcare sector.

"The issue is very simple and can be resolved with money. The question is more whether there is really a will to reduce the unfounded wage gap between men and women," Rytkönen said in a statement on Friday.

A day earlier, Finnish authorities released 2017 tax data showing that only 13 of those with the nation's 100 highest taxable incomes were women.

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