Project Untangled

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Project Untangled



    Overrepresentation of women in routine-intensive jobs which employers value less than other occupations contributes to the gender pay gap, while legislation helps mitigate the problem, a new report from Project UNTANGLED finds.


    “Gender gaps in skills, tasks, and employment outcomes”, written by Laetitia Hauret (LISER), Ludivine Martin (LISER), Piotr Lewandowski (IBS), Marta Palczyńska (IBS) and Nela Šalamon (ZSI) as part of the EU-funded research project, looks into how gender differences in job tasks impact wage and skill mismatches.


    The first part of the report analyses survey data from 37 countries. Figures from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) and the World Bank’s STEP Skills Measurement Program indicate that women earn 18.2% less than men, after accounting for differences in age, education level and skills. This is partly because women perform more routine tasks: more of them work in routine-intensive occupations, and in all occupations they do more repetitive tasks than men. Additionally, the difference in wages between routine and non-routine professions is wider for women than for men.


    “Respondents described their tasks at work, and based on their judgment we classify occupations as routine-intensive,” says Marta Palczyńska. “Those jobs are paid less, and a majority of the people who do them are women. This is one reason women’s average earnings are lower than men’s.”


    Even when employed in jobs that involve more complex tasks, such as creative problem solving and decision-making, women still tend to do more routine tasks than men. However, in this case the associated pay penalties are, on average, similar to those experienced by men.


    The report also finds that in countries with tighter laws on gender equality and more egalitarian social norms, the influence of tasks performed on the gender wage gap tends to be smaller. In countries with laws supporting equality in parenting, the segmentation of men and women into more and less routine-intensive occupations might be less pronounced.


    “When household and child care duties are equally shared with men, women can take up more responsibilities at work, and instead of performing only simple tasks can move to more analytical ones, which has positive effects on their salaries,” Piotr Lewandowski said.


    In addition to social norms and labour laws, policies that promote re-skilling and up-skilling are equally important in reducing the earnings inequality that results from the difference in the type of tasks performed. With the acceleration of digitalisation, many workers are in positions where their skills do not match the requirements of their jobs. In the European Union, 45% of workers feel they do not have the right skills.


    Perception of under-skilling on the rise

    The second part of the report, focusing on skill mismatch, analyses survey data from 23 European countries. It finds that between 2005 and 2015, self-perception of being under-skilled increased. The change was particularly pronounced for men in Nordic countries, where in 2005 10% of men described themselves as under-skilled, while in 2015 15% described themselves this way. For women, the change was particularly pronounced in Western countries (14% in 2005 versus 18% in 2018). Women performing non-routine interpersonal tasks are particularly likely to believe they lack skills.


    “The expansion of non-routine cognitive tasks, both analytical and interpersonal, induced by digitalisation can partially explain these changes,” Ludivine Martin says.


    “Many women switched from routine-intensive jobs to analytical and interpersonal positions,” Laetitia Hauret adds. “That sudden change caused a rise in the number of workers who perceived themselves as underskilled.”


    Hauret, L., Martin, L., Lewandowski, P., Palczyńska, M., Šalamon, N. (2023). Gender gaps in skills, tasks, and employment outcomes (Deliverable 5.3). Leuven: UNTANGLED project 1001004776 – H2020.


    The paper is avaliable here.

    2021 © UNTANGLED. All rights reserved.
    This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004776

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