By Kasey Stricklin
While parity is still elusive, the gender pay gap in Russia has significantly decreased over the last decade. The gap in what women make relative to men currently stands at about 22-27 percent, compared to almost 40 percent in 2005.
In 2016, Russia ranked 75th out of 144 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, which looks at the distance to parity for a variety of factors, including economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
The UN Development Program’s Human Development Report 2016 ranked Russia at a more optimistic 52nd out of 159 countries based on maternal mortality rate, adolescent birth rate, female seats in parliament, population with at least some secondary education, and labor force participation rate.
If current trends continue (and that is a big if), it is estimated that both genders in Russia will earn the same amount by the year 2050.
Differences within and between sectors
Recreation and entertainment saw the largest pay gap, with women earning only 72.8 percent of the pay of men. By contrast, the field of education had the smallest pay gap, with women earning almost 93.9 percent of men’s earnings.
The current gender pay gap in Russia is still closely related to the twentieth-century industrial economy, in which physical strength was valued due to a lack of industrialization compared to the rest of Europe. During the Soviet period, there were also state-imposed restrictions on women being placed in difficult working conditions, which were often the most well paid. In February 2018, Russian Railways called on the government to abolish the list of professions banned for women, which would allow companies to make their own hiring decisions. The list, originally intended to protect the safety and reproductive health of women, legally prohibits women from various positions in industries like metalworking, construction, and mining.
Sectors including education, healthcare, hospitality, and the restaurant business remain “feminized” in Russia. In contrast, construction and industry are highly “masculinized.” Industries with higher average wages typically carry lower-rated perceptions of “feminization.” In feminized sectors, it is more likely that women will have a wage equal to that of men. This speaks to a wage gap that is larger than one single industry – it goes to the heart of the employment sphere in total, bringing the wages of women down all across the economy. It is estimated that about 30 to 40 percent of the gender pay gap is related to this occupational segregation.
The impact of educational experiences
A recent study of the wage gap in Russian academia was published in the Higher School of Economics’ Higher Education in Russia and Beyond. From 2006 to 2016, the wage gap in academia fluctuated between five and 27 percent, but, on average, men in the field earned 16 to 18 percent more than women. Interestingly, the wage gap actually slightly increased in this field over time.
In academia, this difference is largely due to a discrepancy in education and professional opportunities. Fourteen percent of male faculty members have a Doctor of Sciences degree (which is equal to a Habilitation degree, required for professorship in many European countries), and 51 percent of men in the field have the equivalent of a Ph.D. This contrasts with the just six percent of women who hold a Doctor of Sciences degree and 45 percent with the equivalent of a Ph.D. These degrees are held at a premium for determining salaries in the sphere, and, thus, men are more likely to receive higher titles, including as professor, associate professor, or senior research fellow. Women, by contrast, generally work as assistant professors, lecturers, or assistants.
Holding equivalent education, position, and work experience, the pay gap between men and women in academia is about eight percent.
In general though, women in Russia are actually better educated than men. While only 28 percent of men have some form of higher education, a much more substantial 40 percent of women have at least attended university. Despite this, the only group in which women make more than men is among those who only have a high school diploma – and even then women only out-earn men by one percent. Among the group of men and women who attended either an institute or university and also defended a dissertation, men make a whopping 75 percent more than their female peers.
Penalties of motherhood
The gender pay gap reaches 33 percent, the largest discrepancy, for young Russians ages 35 to 39. From that point on, the gap gets consistently smaller again. For those between the ages of 55 and 59 the wage gap is only 22 percent. The smallest gap of all is actually between the youngest wage earners. Those between the ages of 20 and 24 only had a gap of 21 percent.
This stands in stark contrast with EU countries, where the gap actually increases with age and reaches its highest point once a person has reached their sixties.
The high pay gap in Russia for those in their 30s is likely linked to the fact that mothers in their 30s often have young children of pre-school age, meaning the women usually need to be home more. Because of this, they often miss opportunities for training and advancement in their careers.
Russia also offers substantial maternity leave, meaning that the pay gap is affected by the length of time women are away from the work force. In comparison to the couple of months offered in the US and much of the EU, Russian mothers can receive up to three years of leave. Unfortunately, this also means that many employers likely consider the possibility of this lengthy sabbatical when setting young women’s salaries and/or considering them for employment against male candidates.
While paternity leave is allowed in Russia, currently only about two percent of males take advantage of it. In most cases, this is due to financial considerations. In a survey of fathers conducted last year, sixty-one percent of fathers said they earned a salary several times higher than that of the mother. Because of this difference, most men said their work was more important and profitable, and the women should remain at home with their child.
Despite enduring barriers, Russia is making gains in closing the gender pay gap. Experts agree that, so long as economic development continues in the country, the wage gap should continue to decline, though cultural and historical factors could continue to have an impact.
The Russian pay gap is closely in line with the 20 percent pay gap that exists across developed, emerging, and developing countries. While the causes of the gap are debated, it is generally agreed that closing the gap would lead to economic benefits. A 2017 study found that leveling the gap would cut the female poverty rate in half. Other studies show that women’s participation in the labor force typically increases a country’s GDP, often by more than 10 percent. While Russia must be viewed through its own unique lens, such global findings could also have implications for the country’s growth rate in the future.
Kasey Stricklin is a research analyst in the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses. She graduated from George Washington University in December 2017 with a Master’s in International Policy and Practice, and holds a JD from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.