National Bank: A degree brings 28% more pay for men, 27% for women
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National Bank: A degree brings 28% more pay for men, 27% for women

The financial sector pays best. © Adeolou Eletu at Unsplash

A higher education qualification carries a serious income advantage of 28% more pay for men and 27% for women, according to figures from the National Bank (NBB).

But even a secondary school diploma brings an income benefit, of 9% for men and 6% for women, compared to their contemporaries who left school without one.

A skilled trade is worth 5% more pay for a man, but 19% more for a woman, while a highly skilled job means 26% more for a man and 34% more for women.

Employees – that is, people who work for other people or for the state – represent 85% of the Belgian working population. In the public sector, there is centralised wage negotiation, while in the private sector pay tends to be determined by joint committees representing different economic sectors.

Wide pay gaps, therefore, are not common in Belgium. But when gaps appear after a person is engaged, the usual determining factors are seniority and gained experience.

One interesting fact that emerged from the data used by the study is that very few working people in Belgium are earning the statutory minimum wage – about 2-3% according to some estimates. That applies to the private sector as well as the public sector. Private sector workers whose pay is governed by joint sector committees tend to earn a minimum wage that is 19% higher than the statutory minimum.

Non-EU origin brings a disadvantage, the study finds. A man from outside the EU can expect to make 17% less on average – in other words, enough of a difference to wipe out the benefit of a school diploma and a skilled trade. For women, the disadvantage is less, at 10%.

All other things being equal, large companies (more than 50 employees) pay better, to the tune of 15% more than in a company with fewer than ten employees. Companies with 21 to 49 employees earn 6% more.

Finally, the financial sector pays best, with incomes 8% higher than in the manufacturing industry, considered to be the benchmark. The construction industry comes in 16% lower than manufacturing, while the hospitality industry pays 19% less.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times