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Research reveals Puerto Rico gender pay gap

By on August 28, 2017

SAN JUAN – Although women in Puerto Rico have better labor force qualities, such as higher educational attainment, men still earn more even when in the same job position. The sex-based wage discrimination gap widens in professions where there are  greater numbers of women and for working mothers.

These were the main findings revealed in a study, titled “Can Gender Disparities Persist in the First Country with a Negative Gender Pay Gap?” by economists José Caraballo Cueto, president of the Economists Association, and Eileen Segarra.

The findings, which used 2012 to 2014 data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of a representative sample of people ages 24 to 65, were announced at the Economists’ Assembly on Friday at the Center for Puerto Rico in Río Piedras.

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According to the study, women on average have received more academic education than men, 14.14 years versus 13.24; however, men have 25.9 years of experience compared with women, 25.4 years. Men are also more likely to be self-employed (11%) than women (4%).

The economists indicated that another difference is the average number of children, which for men is 0.66 and for women 0.96. According to the research, the difference could result in differing productivity because greater social responsibility, in terms of child care, is expected of mothers than fathers.

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“There is clear evidence that the glass ceiling exists and is detrimental to women. The higher the level of income, the greater the [salary] gap, which cannot be explained,” Segarra told Caribbean Business, using the term defined by the U.S. Federal Glass Ceiling Commission as “the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.”

The gap also widens with when comparing hourly wages, the economist said, which show that in higher positions, the glass ceiling is even more present.

“The gap is higher in occupations where men are scarcer, for example, in a profession like nursing or teaching,” Segarra said, adding that in those types of fields, men have greater advantages and get promoted more than women.

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To close this gap, Segarra said more than a pay equity law, such as the Puerto Rico Equal Pay Act enacted this year, is needed because it does not address promotions, a matter that could help break the glass ceiling.

The economist explained that it is also important to foster social change that promotes equal distribution of housework and, above all, education with gender perspective that promotes equity in different areas. He gave as an example the need to encourage parents to have the same maternity leave when a child is born, for it shows both are important in parenting, unlike currently, when women have on average two months, but fathers do not.

She considered it inexplicable that the government create a pay equity law while eliminating education with a gender perspective in public schools.

“You have to think not only about what to do in terms of the labor market, what’s regulated, but how these social perceptions, of what the role of men and women should be, can be changed,” said Segarra, who considered policies such as labor reform will also affect women more, as they are the most likely to be poor.

In fact, after Segarra and Caraballo Cueto presented their findings, Dr. Melissa de Jesús Dávila, a social worker, discussed “The Challenge of Facing the Feminization of Poverty in Puerto Rico.” At the conference, she emphasized the “marked improvisation in the country’s socioeconomic planning,” which affects women to a greater extent, as they are the ones leading Puerto Rico’s poverty statistics.

De Jesús Dávila said that, to the extent that neoliberal public policies jeopardize labor conditions, as with Act 4 of labor reform, women are the most affected, because they increase the socioeconomic inequalities between the rich and poor.

She added that this is because, despite the efforts, no country has managed to eliminate the economic and political gap between men and women. The situation worsens with the fact that women have are “overloaded with duties in the public and private spheres,” which reflects a violation of their rights.

How to solve this problem? Encouraging a process of accumulation of wealth with social justice, recognizing the value of unpaid work performed by the majority of women in the household and developing policies that take into account that they are the poorest, the social worker said.

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