Although Estonia is known for its technological advancements and commitment to gender equality, the gender wage gap in Estonia is a persistent issue. In 2021, the highest gender pay gap in the EU was recorded in Estonia with the average gross hourly earnings of men being 20.5% higher than those of women.
In 2022, the gender wage gap in Estonia increased to 21.1% and, despite numerous efforts to address the issue, women in Estonia continue to earn less than their male counterparts for equivalent work. As women are 38% more likely to live in poverty than men, addressing the gender wage gap is crucial for fighting poverty. In fact, closing the gender wage gap can cut the poverty rates of working women in half, and this can create a more stable economic environment for Estonian families.
Causes of the Gender Wage Gap
Multiple factors contribute to the gender wage gap in Estonia. One major factor is occupational segregation, with women being more likely to work in lower-paying sectors such as education, health care and social services. The undervaluation of these traditionally female-dominated fields perpetuates the wage disparity. Additionally, women often face challenges in career advancement, encountering barriers such as limited access to higher-ranking positions or being disproportionately affected by breaks in employment due to family obligations.
Societal attitudes and biases also play a role in perpetuating the wage gap. Deep-rooted gender stereotypes and unconscious biases often result in unequal pay negotiations and hinder the recognition of women’s contributions in the workplace. These biases can also influence hiring decisions and career progression opportunities, further exacerbating the wage disparity.
Efforts to Address the Gender Wage Gap
Estonia has implemented various measures to tackle the gender wage gap and promote equal pay. The Estonian Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner’s Office has been instrumental in raising awareness about the issue and advocating for change.
In 2016, Estonia established the Welfare Development Plan for 2016-2023, which strives to assist employers in implementing equal pay policies. The standard provides guidelines for assessing and addressing the economic independence of men and women and pay gaps within organizations, emphasizing the importance of fair compensation based on skills, responsibilities and qualifications rather than gender. The plan intends to implement various measures from raising awareness to legislative initiatives.
Firstly, fostering a culture of pay transparency helps unveil wage disparities and encourages employers to rectify them. Estonia has taken steps to improve pay transparency, with requirements for employers to provide annual reports on the wages of men and women under the 2008 Equal Treatment Act and the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner’s Office. The culture of pay transparency promotes fairness and equity while encouraging accountability for employers’ pay practices.
Promoting women’s representation in leadership positions is another crucial step toward reducing the wage gap. Estonia’s new government has set a milestone for women as the country is one of 10 in the world with a female head of state. Furthermore, women hold 49% of the leadership positions in Estonia, representing the second-highest percentage in the EU. Encouraging gender diversity on corporate boards and implementing policies that support women’s career progression can dismantle the barriers hindering their advancement.
Furthermore, Estonia has one of the most affordable full-time childcare systems that cost less than €20 a week. Investing in affordable childcare and implementing family-friendly policies alleviates the burden on women, enabling them to balance work and family responsibilities more effectively.
Equality for All
Although the government has made strides in addressing the gender wage gap in Estonia, there appears to be room for more efforts. Recognizing and confronting the systemic and cultural factors that contribute to the disparity could play a vital role. And ongoing trends suggest that reforms in pay transparency, promoting women’s leadership and implementing family-friendly policies are some of the measures that pave the way for true pay equity, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of gender, receive fair compensation for their work.
– Valentin Lyazov