Why do women get paid less than men? Hours and commuting provide clues

That Australian women earn less than Australian men is well-known. The latest calculation put the gap – the extent to which the average female full-time wage is less than the average male full-time wage – at 13.4%.

Women are also less likely to be employed than men, about 14% less likely, in part because women give birth to and are more likely to care for children.

What is less well known is that women are 32% less likely to work full-time than men and have an average commute that is 20% shorter.

Could women’s shorter hours (even when working full-time), and shorter commutes be part of the reason for the gender gaps in wages and employment?

If women are willing to endure longer periods of unemployment and lower rates of pay in order to get a job that provides their preferred working hours and commuting distances, it could be.

The Netherlands has similar gaps to Australia on all of these metrics.

Women commute shorter distances
In a study with Wolter Hassink of Utrecht University I used ten years of administrative micro data from Statistics Netherlands to examine differences in the experiences of men and women who had lost their jobs.

We limited the analysis to people who had lost their jobs when their employer went bankrupt, an event that affects men and women equally, and further limited it to workers with a job tenure of at least three years who had worked at least 20 hours a week before job loss.

The data covered the entire population of Dutch individuals, households and firms, providing precise information on the dates that jobs ended and the employment experience that followed.

Getting reemployed takes longer
We followed each individual worker for 61 months: two years before until three years after they lost their jobs. We defined workers who lost their jobs as a result of bankruptcy as those who lost their jobs between six months before and one year after a Dutch court declared their employer bankrupt.

Only six in 10 women were re-employed six months after losing their job, compared to seven in 10 men. Encouragingly, the women who did regain employment did it at no lower hourly wages relative to men than before.

Intriguingly, after the sacked workers were reemployed, the gender difference in both their hours of work and commuting distance became larger.

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