Knowledge Center

Women’s Earnings: The Wage Gap

Women Continue to Experience Gender Wage Gaps Worldwide

There has been little change in the full-time employee gender pay gap since 2010.1

The OECD cites leading causes as gender segregation in jobs and schooling, caregiving responsibilities that fall heavily to women, and discrimination and bias.2

  • The gender wage gap increases as women age.3 
The Gender Wage Gap Varies by Country

Among OECD countries, Korea has the widest gender wage gap at 36.7%, followed by Estonia at 28.3% and Japan at 25.7%.4   

The OECD countries with the lowest gaps are Costa Rica (1.8%), Luxembourg (3.4%), and Greece (4.5%). 5 

Some Countries Have Taken Action to Address Their Gender Wage Gap
  • Ontario passed a law that required part-time casual workers, who are often women or new Canadians, to be paid at the same rate as full-time workers.6 
  • Iceland passed a law that by January 2022, companies must prove they are paying equal wages for equal work or pay fines.7 
  • Northern Ireland has reversed the gender pay gap: since 2010, women have earned on average 3.4% more than men.8 
  • Germany passed a law that went into effect in January 2018 which gives women and men who feel disadvantaged the right to learn the salary of co-workers in the same job.9
  • In 2017, five US states—California, Colorado, Delaware, Nevada, and Oregon—as well as Puerto Rico passed pay equality laws. 10

Hourly, Weekly, and Annual Earnings All Show a Gender Wage Gap

There are a variety of ways to measure the gender wage gap. All of them tend to show a gap, but there are important points to consider: 11 

  • Comparing the hourly wages of all workers will control, to an extent, for the differences in overall hours worked, as men are more likely to work full-time and women part-time.
  • Another common method is to look only at the weekly or annual earnings of women and men working full-time.
  • Comparing the weekly or annual earnings of full- and part-time workers also has value, as it recognizes the wages women don't earn because they are more often doing the unpaid work of being caregivers.These differences will account for the range of data reported about the gender wage gap.


By Every Measure, Canadian Women Face a Gender Wage Gap


Women in Canada earned 83.1% of what men earn on average, based on the weekly wages of full-time workers in 2017. 12 

  • Based on the average hourly wage rate for all workers (full- and part-time) in 2017, women earned 86.7% of men’s wages.13
  • Based on the average weekly wages of all workers (full- and part-time) in 2017, women earned 76.7% of men’s wages.14  
  • Looking at the annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers in 2014, women earned 74.2% of what men earned.15
Over 20 Years, the Gender Wage Gap Has Closed by Less Than Six Percentage Points

Improvement in the wage gap has been minor since 1997 (women’s full-time, weekly wages have risen from 77.2% to 83.1% of men’s).16

There Is Significant Variation Across the Provinces

Among the provinces, Prince Edward Island has the lowest gender wage gap: women earn 10.7% less than men do in median weekly, full-time earnings.17

Newfoundland and Labrador have the highest gender wage gap: women’s median full-time, weekly earnings are 28.9% less than men’s.18

Even in lower-paying occupations in Newfoundland and Labrador, women earn less:

  • In “Sales and Service,” women’s gender wage gap is over 20%.19      
  • In “Education, Law, Social, Community and Government Services,” the gender wage gap is 46%.20  
Visible Minority Women Experience the Highest Wage Gap21 
Visible minority women earn 84.4% of what visible minority men earn, based on median annual income for full-time workers.22  
  • Visible minority women earn 70.1% of what all men earn.23  


Gender Pay Gap Varied Significantly Across the EU

In 2016, Estonia had the highest gender wage gap, with women earning 25.3% less than men, based on average gross hourly earnings.24


Germany (21.5%) and the United Kingdom (21.0%) were among those countries with the highest gender pay gaps, based on average gross hourly earnings.25


Romania had the lowest gap, at 5.2%, based on average gross hourly earnings.26


Italy (5.3%) and Belgium (6.1%) were among those with the lowest, based on average gross hourly earnings.27


For the EU 28, the average gender wage gap was 16.2%, based on average gross hourly earnings.28

2016 Country Highlights and Selected Information29
Belgium 6.1
France 15.2
Germany 21.5
Italy 5.3
Netherlands 15.6
Sweden 13.3
Switzerland 17.0
UK 21.0


United States

Gender Wage Gap Exists No Matter How It Is Counted


Women earned 81.8% of what men earned in 2017, based on the median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers.30  

  • This is compared to 62.3 in 1979.31  

Women earned a median of $770 weekly, while men earned $941.32

Women earned 82% of what men earned in 2017, based on median hourly earnings of full-time and part-time workers, according to Pew Research Center analysis.33 

  • This is compared to 64% in 1980.34  

Women earned 79.6% of what men earned in 2015, based on the annual median earnings for full-time, year-round workers.35 

  • Women earned a median of $40,742 annually, and men earned $51,212.36

The Gap Doesn't Close the Higher Women Climb

 In 2017, women in full-time management, professional, and related occupations earned 73.0% of what men earned in median weekly earnings.37

The Gender Wage Gap Increases With Age38    

Younger women (20–24 years old) are closer to pay equity and earn 95.6% of men's earnings, but that gap widens with age.39

  • Women aged 55–64 years old earn just 73.7% of men's median weekly earnings for full-time wages and salaries.40

Women Face a Significant Cumulative Wage Loss Over Their Careers

The average full-time working woman will lose $403,440 in wages over a 40-year period due only to the wage gap.41

College-educated millennial women are projected to lose more than a million dollars ($1,066,721) because of the gender wage gap, based on median annual earnings for full-time, year-round work.42  


Many Women of Color Have a Large Gender Wage Gap43 

Hispanic women and Black women had the lowest median weekly earnings ($603 and $657).44

  • Asian and White men had the highest ($1,207 and $971).45

Hispanic women earn 50.0% of what Asian men earn and 62.1% of what White men earn. 46

Black women earn 54.4% of what Asian men earn and 67.7% of what White men earn.47 

Women, and Especially Women of Color, Experience a Significant Cumulative Lifetime Wage Gap

Average Earnings Lost Over a 40-Year Period
Latinas48 $1,056,120
Native women49 $960,280
Black women50 $867,920
White, non-Hispanic women51   $487,360


The Gender Wage Gap Varies by Industry

The biggest wage gap in the United States is in the finance and insurance industry. Even though women account for more than half of all employees in those industries,52they earn only about $0.60 for every $1 men make.53 

The industry closest to parity is construction. Women earn about $0.96 cents for every $1 men earn.54 


Additional Resources



Catalyst, Quick Take: Women In The Workforce: Canada.

Catherine McIntyre, "These are the Key Numbers That Explain the Wage Gap for Women," Maclean's, February 8, 2018.



Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in The Workforce: Europe.

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in The Workforce: UK.


Gabriela Inchauste, Ana Maria Munoz-Boudet, and Paola Buitrago Hernandez, “Trying to Explain the Gender Pay Gap in Europe,” World Bank Blog: Let's Talk Development, April 3, 2018.

Lucy Meakin, "U.K. Gender Pay Gap Revealed: Men Outearn Women at Every Level," Bloomberg, January 17, 2018.


United States

AAUW, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Spring 2018).

Bloomberg, “The Pay Check,” podcast about the pay gap.

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women In The Workforce: United States.

Sarah Jane Glynn, Explaining the Gender Wage Gap (Center for American Progress, May 19, 2014).

Jennifer Calfas, "How These Major Companies Are Getting Equal Pay Right," Fortune, April, 9, 2018.



How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Women's Earnings: The Wage Gap (July 16, 2018).