There are many indicators that show inequality of women in the labour market: low labour force participation rate, inequality of access to employment opportunities, gender-based segregation, pay gap, unfair pension system, etc. This is a consequence of traditional gender biases and stereotypes and gender discrimination that place women in lower-paying jobs, lower hierarchical positions, burden them with housework and taking care of the family, while the work they do, be it in the household or at work, is underestimated. Women and men enter the labour market from different starting positions, which is later reflected in the level of their pay and pension, their hierarchical position and working conditions.
According to data for the reporting year published by the Croatian Bureau of Statistics (gathered in 2016), the average gross salary in Croatia was 7,752 HRK, which is 303 HRK less than last year's 8,055 HRK. Latest data on average monthly gross salaries reported by sex of the employee refer to 2015. At the time, the average monthly gross salary was 7,471 HRK for women and 8,422 HRK for men, which means that the share of the average salary for women in the average salary for men was 88.7%.
These data show that on average men earn 11,412 HRK more per year than women, i.e. they earn 1.47 average Croatian gross salaries more. The Ombudsperson warned about the increase in the pay gap in the past years as well, and indicated that there was a fear that the gap would reach the difference of two average gross salaries more in favour of men.
The pay gap is significant in the public sector as well, and is a consequence of vertical segregation, i.e. greater representation of women in hierarchically lower positions.
When it comes to the division by areas of activity, average pay for women is markedly lower (by more than 20 percentage points) in two areas of activity. In the area of “finance and insurance” women make 75.9% of the average gross salary for men, and in the area of “health care and social welfare” they make an even lower 71.8% of the gross salary for men. The Ombudsperson previously indicated that these numbers could be the result of vertical segregation, i.e. a situation where women in the aforementioned areas of activity are traditionally employed in hierarchically lower positions that are connected to lower pay. The pension gap is directly related to the existing pay gap, which causes the disadvantageous position of women and the increased risk of their poverty to continue even after they leave the labour market. Continued and marked labour market segregation by sex, vertical as well as horizontal, is one of the main reasons why the pay gap is unchanging, but also represents a source for an increasingly pronounced pension gap. However, the Ombudsperson has noticed that another factor for the pension gap between men and women is the existing system of pension calculation.
In the context of the aforementioned, the Ombudsperson notes that up until 31 December 1998, according to the regulations of pension insurance that were valid until then, the calculation of pensions included the period of the 10 most favourable years of employment, which means that the years spent on maternity and/or parental leave were exempted from the calculation. However, as of 1 January 1999, the calculation of pensions includes the entire period of employment (including time spent on maternity and/or parental leave), leaving women who have given birth (become mothers) in a more disadvantageous position.
The pension gap between women and men aggravates the situation of women when it comes to their economic vulnerability and leaves them exposed to social exclusion, constant poverty and economic dependence, especially on their (marital or extramarital) partners. Namely, according to data published in the aforementioned Report of the European Parliament, the percentage of older women who were at risk of poverty and social exclusion (in 2014) was 20.2%, compared to 14.6% of men.
The pension gap also reflects the segregation of market labour and points to a higher percentage of women working part-time, for lower wages, with breaks in employment and fewer years of employment due to unpaid work they do as mothers and carers in their families. In this context, and as also stated in the Report of the European Parliament, it is obvious that the pension gap is positively related to the number of children raised during life and that the pension gap between men and women in the case of married women and mothers is much greater than the one for single women with no children.
These data show that the subject of unequal pay and pensions should be part of a public discussion and that we need to work on combating gender inequality in the labour market at all levels: from education to changing legislation.