The tale of the Gender pay gap: can the EU put anything over on you?

I bet, you heard something about the Gender pay gap recently. The Gender pay gap is what keeps EU do-gooders busy . It “reflects ongoing discrimination and inequalities in the labour market, which, in practice, mainly affect women”. You can read this sermon on the internet, on a page devoted entirely to the Gender pay gap. The Gender pay gap, the same site informs you is either caused by direct discrimination, by an under-evaluation of women’s work, by traditions and stereotypes or by women’s difficulties when it comes to balancing work and private life. The Gender pay gap is measurable, it is measured as the relative difference in the gross hourly earnings of women an men within the economy as a whole. EUROSTAT, the statistical agency of the European Union devotes five bullet points to the different versions of the Gender pay gap. Here you can learn that the Gender pay gap in the UK is 21.4%, while in Germany it is 23.2%.

So let’s digest this for a while.

To get things straight, what the Gender pay gap says is that male workers across the UK (or Germany, for that instance) have on average 21.4% (23.2% in Germany) higher hourly wages than female workers. This is the Gender pay gap. Doesn’t that strike you odd? Certainly there is an education pay gap as well because across the UK well educated workers earn more than less educated workers. Ever seen an EU official fight for unskilled workers being paid the same wages than skilled workers are paid? Certainly not, would affect themselves so they shy away from it. However, the logic is the same.

So for the records: They declare a Gender pay gap without any reference to differences in skill, occupation, education, human capital and so forth and, they not even control for working time. So let’s do just that and use data collected by EUROSTAT.

The same agency that spreads the fairy tale of the Gender pay gap, hosts data for average working hours per week. Extract the data and you find that men in the UK work on average 42 hours a week, while women work 31.2 hours a week. The working time gap between male and female workers is 34.6%, i.e. it is even greater than the Gender pay gap. In other words, though men in the UK work on average 34.6% more than women, they are only paid 21.4% more. If there is discrimination in the labour market, discrimination works against men, because on average they have to work longer hours to get the same wages. Another nail in the coffin of the Gender pay gap myth is provided by overtime work. 16.2% of the UK’s male workers are required to work overtime, while only 9% of female workers are. Again you would expect that to find expression in the average pay men get and you would expect the longer hours, men work overtime to increase their wages relative to womens’.

Two simple scraps of data suffice to unveil the entire Gender pay gap saga as nonsense. Nevertheless, the EU (and not only the EU) employes a number of mountebanks who make a living by spreading claims proven to be wrong. So either those who staff the EU’s Gender pay gap lobby are dumb, unwilling or incapable to make the easiest of connections between data or they are on a crusade and want others to believe in a lie, because they profit from others believing the lie (through their wages). Though I have my suspicion I leave it to you to decide.


Figures for Germany are comparable to the UK. German men work 38.7 hours on a weekly average, while women work on average 30.4 hours per week. The working time gap between German men and women amounts to men working 27.6% longer than women. On average 5.2% or German men are required to work overtime, while this accounts only for 2.4 of the female labour force.

  1. #1 by Sebastian on April 28, 2011 - 1:59 pm

    I have a question of understanding:

    Quote EU-Commission: “At EU level, the gender pay gap is defined as the relative difference in the average gross hourly earnings of women and men within the economy as a whole.”

    It’s about the average “hourly” wages. Question: If the weekly working time of male workers is longer than of female ones, why should that have an influence on the time they have to work longer hours to get the same wages, as you wrote? – Quote: “In other words, though men in the UK work on average 34.6% more than women, they are only paid 21.4% more. If there is discrimination in the labour market, discrimination works against men, because on average they have to work longer hours to get the same wages.”

    One sentence of the EU-Commission Gender Equalitiy Page is interesting: Quote: “This indicator has been defined as unadjusted (e.g. not adjusted according to differences in individual characteristics or other observable characteristics that may explain part of the earnings difference) because it gives an overall picture of gender discrimination and the inequalities in the labour market that explain gender differences in pay.” –

    How can an anadjusted numbers game be meaningful to the real/practical inequalities caused only or concretely by gender? Wouldn’t that – if at all – be interesting referred to e.g. educational differences or the physical or whatever requirements of a professional career?

    • #2 by Michael Klein on April 28, 2011 - 2:18 pm

      If you have two groups and A earns 21% less than B, however, B works about 35% more than A, than, in order to get things even, you would say that earings of B should be 35/21 the earnings of A, however, ratio is 21/21 which means B earns 14/21 less than he should – provided equality is what is aimed for.

      unadjusted numbers:
      they can’t, that’s one point I wanted to make. Actually, there is a report provided by the federal statistics agency of Germany that tries to disentangle the various factors that influence earnigs (experience, human capital) and the like from the Gender Pay Gap. As a result, the Gap reduces from 21% to 8% (in Germany).

      However, as I have shown here: (in German)
      even the 8% are the result of an artifact, i.e. the way the Gender Gap is calculated produces the Gender Gap. The only thing you have to do is to make some real world assumption: men work longer hours, what they do and working longer hours (or overtime) results in higher earnings per hour, and the Gap vanishes entirely.

  2. #3 by Michael Klein on April 28, 2011 - 3:56 pm

    I just came across a pragraph in a speech delivered by Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Justice Commissioner which shows that at least Reding (and supposedly so the entire EU hierarchy) is fully aware of the fact that the Gender Pay Gap is a complete hoax. She said: “One of the reasons for the different income-levels between women and men is the burden of care women carry [give the often cited self-responsibility, the burden seems to be self-inflicted]. Figures show that the moment men become fathers, they start working longer hours. The same is not the case for women. When they become mothers, they either stop working for longer periods of time or work part-time …”

    Given this statement and given the results of research conducted by Catherine Hakim I posted elsewhere:
    the best way to get rid of the Gender Pay Gap (assuming it does exist) would be to issue a regulation say regulation (EC) 9999/12 that obliges both parents to work part-time and not to exceed a maximum allowance of 20 hours weekly. Brave new EU world.

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