More Belgian women are working, but large gender pay gap remains

More Belgian women are working, but large gender pay gap remains
Credit: Belga / Jonas Hamers

Female participation in the Belgian workforce has risen markedly in recent years — but women still, on average, earn less than men, a recent report has found.

According to a study published by the High Council for Employment (Hoge Raad voor de Werkgelegenheid, HRW) and reported on by De Tijd, the female labour force participation rate in Belgium rose from 50% in 1995 to 67% in 2021.

By contrast, the proportion of working age men with jobs remained almost identical over the same period (from 74% in 1995 to 75% in 2021).

The study also found that the average wage gap between men and women fell from 10.4% in 2015 to 8.5% in 2021. It suggested that the reason for this continued discrepancy is that women are typically employed in lower-paid service industries such education and healthcare, while men tend to work higher-paid jobs, for instance in construction, heavy industry, or IT.

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In addition, the study noted that women are more likely to be engaged in short-term or precarious employment, and that they are also more frequently employed in professions which require strong emotional investment (e.g. psychological counselling). They were also found to be significantly more likely to face violence and unwanted sexual advances while at work.

Work was not the only place where gender-based inequities persist, however: in particular, women were also found to do considerably more unpaid housework than their male partners.


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