The Gender Gap in relation to the labour market

Last Updated: 12 May 2020
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The labour market is made up of many different segments, such as gender and age. In a fair world it could be perceived that each group should be evenly represented in terms of numbers and each group to be free from discrimination. This is the ideal scenario that is supported by the neoclassical approach to supply side labour, which originates from economics. This approach assumes that for the labour force to maximise its productivity, it must function with rational and efficient thinking behind every decision. This way it can become a rational functioning market.

Therefore if a certain segment were to be discriminated against it would counter this economic theory as this would not follow the guidelines of being a 'rational market'. Furthermore discrimination is seen as uncompetitive and should be eradicated. Therefore it is imperative that the labour market becomes a market free from discrimination. In recent years much effort has occurred in the United Kingdom to solve this problem, but has it actually got rid of the problem of the inequalities in the labour market and if so why not?

Gender is one particular segment of the labour market which continues to throw up differences between the two sexes in terms of how they operate within the market. The main example of this is the gender pay gap i. e. the difference between how much men are paid compared to women. This gap continues to be in favour of males "The mean pay gaps for full-time, part-time and all employees in 2008 were 17. 4 per cent, 15. 2 per cent and 21. 3 per cent respectively1 (ONS)". So why does this occur? One reason for this difference can be the human capital difference that an average male comes to the labour market with, rather than a woman.

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This originates to a deep-rooted view in society about gender segregation; in particular what society perceives is a suitable type of employment for the different genders. For example in society, when imagining a fireperson it is generally assumed that it will be a male, whereas it could just as easily be a female. Due to this society puts pressure on individuals to follow the norm. This pressure begins in the education system. At High school there are great amounts of pressure put on teenagers to make decisions, on what to study and ultimately what they will look to do in terms of employment in the future.

When making these decisions females are more likely to be directed towards subjects such as home technology, and males towards Physical Education. This may appear to be an outdated view on society in today's world, due to the increase in the equal opportunities between men and women, mainly thanks to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and in particular the Equal Pay Act, which together stopped employers either discriminating against women in various ways, such as an employer cannot pay a woman less than a man when the two are performing the same job.

However it may not be a deliberate conscious decision by the person advising the teenagers but instead an unconscious decision based on presumptions of what males and females are generally perceived socially to be good at, instead of focussing on the individuals' particular attributes. This society pressure may be explained through patriarchy. Walby defines patriarchy as "A system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women2".

By this Walby is suggesting that the social view on the world is male dominated and there to suit them. It may be suggested that this is a suppression of women not in the workplace, but more in society it's self. Super's Life Career theory states "vocational choice is and implementation of the self concept3". This suggests that women will choose future on how they view themselves. Therefore if society has moulded women to see themselves in a stereotypical feminist way, this may lead women to choose careers which are stereotypically female.

Following on from the choices made in the education system women are more inclined to move towards a certain type of employment, such as healthcare or teaching. This trend is shown in the health and social work sector, as it is made up of eighty one percent of women, and in the education sector which is made up of 69 percent women (4Kirton and Greene). As stated before, society directs women towards certain sectors of industry. However, it may not always be society that does this, but rather women choosing that particular sector through personal choices.

One reason for this could be that generally woman often choose job satisfaction and job environment over monetary gains, whereas men generally prefer monetary gains. This choice by women often leads them into the public sector, as within this sector job security is higher than in the private sector. Also a lot of public sector work provides the opportunity to gain great levels of satisfaction from providing a service, such as healthcare or teaching. On the other hand the private sector often offers little job security due to market forces; and many jobs provide little intrinsic reward and are repetitive.

However the private sector allows a person to make greater monetary gains due to the increased risks of working in the private sector. In 2006 eighty seven percent of men worked in the private sector, whereas only seventy one percent of women worked in the private sector (5ONS). Additional to this, if you take into account the fact that women make up only forty six percent of the labour force (6Kirton and Greene) you will see a reason for why there is a gender pay gap as women are predominantly working in lower paid sectors and underrepresented in the labour market.

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The Gender Gap in relation to the labour market. (2018, Sep 29). Retrieved from

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