Women earn less than men in the V4: A punishment for home and childcare?

The gendered discrepancies in earnings is significant in the V4. The causes of the pay gap are complex, reflecting a variety of problems both in national economies and societies.

© European Union 2015 - European Parliament

In all V4 countries we can see quite significant difference betweeen monthly earning of women and men. The regional average for average earnings is 18.7%. With the exception of Poland the gap in average earnings is higher than in the case of median earnings. The segregation of labour market plays its role here – the average earnings are increased by men employed in well-paid sectors (horizontal segregation) or on top positions (vertical segregation). The biggest gap in average salaries is in Slovakia and the Czech Republic – in both cases over 20% followed by Poland with 17% and the smallest gap is in Hungary – only 13%. For median data for only 3 countries are avaiable and the situation is quite different. The biggest gap is in Poland (22%) followed by Slovakia (17%) and the smallest in the Czech Republic.

Tax Freedom Day, usually in June is a popular (and pleasant) reminder for the employed that after spending six months working for the state, they can start earning money for themselves. 1

Then there is Equal Pay Day, when working women can “celebrate,” reaching the income levels their male counterparts enjoyed at the end of the previous year. With an average gender wage gap at around 20%, women would have to work for two and a half more months than men to earn the same amount of money. 2

As the V4Revue survey shows, the gendered discrepancies in earnings is significant in the V4. The gender wage gap between the average monthly earnings of women and men within the economy as a whole 3 varies from Hungary´s 13.2% to Slovakia´s 23.1%. When using an alternative method – median monthly earnings, which operates with the middle value and excludes distorting extremes, the gap varies from the Czech Republic´s 16.1% to Poland´s 21.7%.

One positive trend to note, is that the gap has been narrowing since the 1990s, although very slowly in some V4 countries. In between 1999 and 2014, Hungary and the Czech Republic showed the most promise, while Slovakia lagged in the field.

 But one has to be careful with these numbers, and consider all three components of the wage gap – length of the work day; factors such as job experience, education and sector, and the discriminatory policies, themselves. 4 In their study from 2006, Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, analyzed the gender wage gap in the US in the ‘90s, and found that women only earned 72% of men´s average salary. However, when they converted data to hourly salaries, adjusting for time spent working, the difference was reduced to 20%, indicating that one driver of the wage gap is shorter work periods and part-time jobs.

It reflects an ongoing debate on both the value placed and the wages given women and men, who take on childcare, elderly-care and homecare duties. Many feel these jobs are not only a primarily private mater, but have enormous economic value for society; childcare, for instance, socializes and educates future generations, preparing them for their entry into the job market. As the International Wages for Housework Campaign argues, housework and childcare are foundational to all industrial work and should be compensated as paid wage labor. 5

When the researchers included job experience, education and sector in the mix, the wage gap between similarly qualified men and women reduced to 9%, which they determined could solely be attributed to employers’ discrimination practices. 6

When analyzed state by state, higher gender pay gaps can be found in labor markets where women are significantly more represented than men (healthcare, education or administration), 7 such as the Czech Republic, Estonia and Finland, or in countries where we statistically find more women working part-time, like in Germany or Austria. 8 According to the Czech Statistical Bureau, men´s median salary was 910 euros and women´s 747 euros. The widest gender wage gap exists among management, and mostly among those with the highest salaries. 9

An extra degree to be equal

The wage gap can be encapsulated in educational terms as well – women must earn a higher degree to raise their average salaries to men’s average earnings. And a man with secondary schooling has a higher average salary than a woman with a bachelor´s degree. 10 However, in all V4 countries, the higher the education level, the more women that successfully complete it.

Another illustration of the discrepancies can be found in the gender ratios for the completion of secondary school. The ratio of women completing secondary education without having taken an A Level exams varies from 35.4% in Hungary to 41.1% in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic, but the ratio of women completing their secondary education with an A Level exam is significantly larger, varying from 47.2% in Slovakia to 56.9% in Hungary.

V4 countries seem to follow the European example: just around 60% of new university graduates are women, however, women are still the minority in fields like mathematics, computing and engineering. 11

Leaving the job market

There are some key employment indicators that might explain the gender wage gap. In 2015, the unemployment rate among women, actively searching for employment, in V4 countries ranged from 6.2% to almost 13%. Women on average experience higher unemployment then men do, with significant regional differences – from an only 0.4% difference in Poland to an almost 2.5% difference in Slovakia.

The labor participation rate of all V4 countries is from 61.4% to 66.8%, right around the OECD average. The differences in the labor participation rate between men and women range from 13.1% in Hungary to 14.6% in the Czech Republic, with the OECD average at 16.7%. 

The difference in the labor participation rate between men and women in the V4 is the widest for women between the ages of 25 and 34, when some women decide to leave the labor market and start families. So the key factor influencing women´s labor force participation is the duration of maternal and parental leaves.

For example, in 2013, the employment rate of Czech women was at 57.2%, fairly close to the EU average of 58.5%. But if you look at women with children under six years of age, then the employment rate was only 35.8%, the second worst rate in EU, where the average employment rate of other European mothers of young children was more than twice as high at 59.7%. 12

To be fair, this is something all the EU states struggle with with only 65.8% of European mothers with young children working, compared to 89.1% of fathers in the same category. Women sometimes leave the labor market voluntarily, and then sometimes due to lacking flexible and affordable childcare facilities. 13

With inflexible job markets, only 8.8% of Czech women work part-time jobs, while the EU average for women working part-time is about 31.6% and for men only around 8%. 14

Part-time jobs are usually connected with lower hourly earnings, 15less opportunities for promotion, fewer employee benefits, scarce labor protections, more career interruptions and shorter working hours. 16 For many women, returning from their parental leave is like beginning their career all over again. 17

As the economist, Štěpán Jurajda, of CERGE-EI Institute, confirmed in the weekly, Euro: “The employment of women that take care of children who have not entered primary school really is extremely low in the Czech Republic. It can easily be increased by establishing affordable quality care for pre-primary, school-aged children.” 18

Many Czech women decide to have another baby to avoid the problem of placing pre-school aged children in childcare facilities while they work. 19

The problems women face regarding childcare options are decisive in young mothers’ shrinking job market participation rates, especially when compared to the participation rate of women age 45 to 54. In this category, the difference in the employment rates between men and women is once again relatively small – around 2% on average across the V4 countries, with the exception of Poland at 6%.

The V4 is not for elderly women

The gender wage gap does not only resonate in the divergent financial and career paths men and women take during their more productive years, but into old age as well. As women age, the wage gap can have a tremendously negative impact on their retirement. 20

When women are approaching the eligible age for retirement, then their labor participation rate decreases and the difference between men and women widens again, from 7.9% in Slovakia to 16% in Poland.

Moreover, shorter periods of employment and lower wages mean lower pensions. In 2013, the average Czech man´s pension was 450 euros, but the average Czech woman´s only 354 euros, leaving them more prone to poverty in retirement. It should also be taken into account that women´s life expectancy is generally higher than men’s (in the Czech Republic it was 82 to 76, respectively in 2014). 21

Many women outlive their male spouses, thus spending some of their retirement alone and with low pensions. 22 The difference between male and female pensions has not improved in the Czech Republic, with the gap actually reaching 23%. 23

The Czech pension system neither reflects nor compensates women´s “career interruptions” due to child-rearing. In one prime example, a women with two children was out of the market for six years, which would have been the most productive part of her career; it is also highly probable that again in her late fifties she will decide to take care of the elder members of her family. 24

Lack of ambition

But aren´t women themselves to be blamed for the gap? Don´t they underestimate themselves? Aren´t they afraid to ask for a higher salary than men are when beginning a job? Aren´t they less successful in negotiating that salary increase? 25

Some surveys may confirm these assumptions. When Czech women were asked about the criteria they felt lent to a successful career, only 3% of them associated it with job titles and achieving leadership roles within organizations. More than 50% of women surveyed said that positions in middle management were actually more interesting for them. 26

In a study, researchers at Yale University asked dozens of scientists to assess the job applications of equally qualified male and female candidates. The result was surprising –both female and male scientists preferred the male candidates.

As the survey´s summary states, “they were more likely to hire the male, rank him higher in competency, and were willing to pay him $4,000 more than the woman.” Corinne A. Moss-Racusin, a postdoctoral associate in MCDB and psychology, commented on the study’s findings: “There has been a feeling that women are underrepresented in the sciences because of personal or lifestyle choices, but it is clear that gender bias is also present,” he said. 27

Is transparency key?

In 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that British companies with 250 or more employees would have to regularly report their financial remuneration data for their male and female employees, arguing that transparency is an important tool for gradually closing the gender wage gap in the future. 28

The legal framework for combating a widening gender wage gap is in place now, although it has some flaws. All V4 countries implemented the principle of equal pay for equal work, or work of equal value, in their national legislations. 29 In Hungary and the Czech Republic, the principle of equal pay for men and women is a part of the Labor Code, 30 while in Poland and Slovakia, it is a part of the Constitution. 31 Hungary is an interesting case. As researcher Beata Nacsa observed, equal pay for equal work was, “expressly guaranteed in previous constitutions,” but is “no longer included in the new Fundamental Law.” 32

Although they did so with different formulations, 33 all V4 countries adopted Article 4 of the Recast Directive 2006/54, which prohibits direct and indirect discrimination on gendered grounds, regarding all aspects and conditions of remuneration. 34 And except for Slovakia, all V4 national laws lay down some parameters for establishing the equal value of work performed by men and women, such as the nature of the work, training and working conditions. 35

The V4 Labor Laws do not explicitly address wage transparency, a particular problem in the Czech Republic, that Kristina Koldinská claims is “one of the weaknesses of Czech national legislation.” 36 However, the situation in Hungary is more mixed: “In the public sector, job classifications and performance evaluations are widespread, which theoretically would create a high level of transparency in wages. To say the gender pay gap reflects “ongoing discrimination and inequalities in the labor market” is too simplistic. 37

It is not just about employers willingly preferring male candidates in  the application processes or for promotions. The causes of the pay gap are complex, 38 any many entrenched, reflecting a variety of problems both in national economies and societies, from cultural stereotypes and biases to the low value (and consequently remuneration) given for similarly demanding work in female-dominated sectors, like education or healthcare, or the more “invisible” workers taking care of their children, their older relatives or their households.

The full data visualisation is available here. In case you would like to receive the full data set for either country or the whole V4, send us an email at rebecca(at)visegradrevue.eu

The article is part of the project “Learning about causes and effects of gender (im)balance in Central Europe” funded by the European Union flag_yellow_high
The content series was created by the V4Revue, not by the funder.


  1. Tax Freedom Day is the theoretical first day of the year, when a nation as a whole has earned enough income to pay its taxes.
  2. “Tak bych si užila 21% platu navíc / I would enjoy 21% more salary as well,” Marie Claire, March 25, 2015, p. 116.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Jiří Jelínek, Rovnost, nikoli rovnostářství, Lidové noviny, 09.03.2016, str. 11.
  5. Silvia Federici, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle, PM Press, 2012.
  6. Jiří Jelínek, “Rovnost, nikoli rovnostářství / Equality, not egalitarianism,” Lidové noviny, March 9, 2016, p. 11. Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, The Gender Pay Gap. Have Women Gone as Far as They Can?, http://bit.ly/2dETUl8 (accessed September 16, 2016).
  7. “Gender pay gap,” European Commission, 2015, http://bit.ly/1bIYH1g.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Martin Petříček, “Platová nerovnost klesá, ale pohlaví rozhoduje / The wage gap is on the decline, but the gender still decides,” Mladá fronta Dnes, June 7, 2016, p. 8.
  10. “Ženy musí mít vyšší vzdělání než muži, aby měly stejný plat / Women has to have higher education than men to have an equal pay,” Moderní řízení, December 20, 2013, p. 62.
  11. “Gender pay gap,” European Commission, 2015, http://bit.ly/1bIYH1g.
  12. Zuzana Andělová, “Vězeňkyně mateřské dovolené / Prisoners of the maternity leave,” Euro, September 30, 2013, p. 54.
  13. “Gender pay gap,” European Commission, 2015, http://bit.ly/1bIYH1g.
  14. Zuzana Andělová, “Vězeňkyně mateřské dovolené;” “Gender pay gap,” European Commission, 2015, http://bit.ly/1bIYH1g.
  15. “Gender pay gap,” European Commission, 2015, http://bit.ly/1bIYH1g.
  16. Ibid.; See also: (pav), “Ženy berou méně než muži,” Mladá fronta Dnes, November 18, 2015, p. 54.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Zuzana Andělová, “Vězeňkyně mateřské dovolené.”
  19. Ibid.
  20. Based on the Gender Studies project: Hannah Steiner, “Férové platy – férové penze, Příklady dobré praxe / Fair wages, fair pensions. Best practice,” Otevřená společnost, http://bit.ly/2cEOvw4 (accessed September 16, 2016).
  21. “Průměrný věk dožití Čechů se za rok prodloužil o sedm měsíců,” novinky.cz, December 30, 2015, http://bit.ly/2cuLIT8.
  22. Stáňa Seďová, “Chudoba má v důchodu výrazně ženskou tvář / The poverty in retirement has significantly a woman´s face,” Právo, October 1, 2015, p. 1; See also: “Chudá na stará kolena / Poor when old,” Instinkt, October 8, 2015, p. 8.
  23. Ibid. “Chudá na stará kolena,” Instinkt.
  24. Stáňa Seďová, “Chudoba má v důchodu výrazně ženskou tvář.”
  25. (tz), “Češi si průměrně vydělají 318 tisíc korun za rok. Ženy berou o 22 procent méně než muži / The Czechs earn 11778 euro a year in average. Women earn 22 percent less than men,” Moderní řízení, June 22, 2016, p. 64.
  26. Kateřina Adamcová, “Češky nemají velké kariérní ambice / The Czech women do not have high career ambitions,” Hospodářské noviny, April 29, 2016, p. 4.
  27. “Scientists not immune from gender bias, Yale study shows,” Yale News, September 24, 2012, http://bit.ly/SsaetF (accessed September 16, 2016).
  28. Leona Šlajchrtová, “Ukažte, kolik platíte ženám / Show how much do you pay to women,” Lidové noviny, July 17, 2015, p. 7.
  29. Kristina Koldinská, “How are EU rules transposed into national law? Gender equality, Country report: Czech Republic,” 2015, European Commission, Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, Directorate D — Equality Unit JUST/D1, European Commission B-1049 Brussels, Reporting period 1 January 2014 – 1 July 2015.
  30. Kristina Koldinská, “Gender equality, Country report: Czech Republic.”
  31. Eleonora Zielinska, “How are EU rules transposed into national law? Gender equality, Country report: Poland, 2015, European Commission, Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, Directorate D — Equality Unit JUST/D1, European Commission B-1049 Brussels, Reporting period 1 January 2014 – 1 July 2015; Zuzana Magurová, “How are EU rules transposed into national law? Gender equality, Country report: Slovakia, 2015, European Commission, Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, Directorate D — Equality Unit JUST/D1, European Commission B-1049 Brussels, Reporting period 1 January 2014 – 1 July 2015.
  32. Beata Nacsa, “How are EU rules transposed into national law? Gender equality, Country report: Hungary, 2015, European Commission, Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, Directorate D — Equality Unit JUST/D1, European Commission B-1049 Brussels, Reporting period 1 January 2014 – 1 July 2015.
  33. Eleonora Zielinska, “Gender equality, Country report: Poland.”
  34. Kristina Koldinská, “Gender equality, Country report: Czech Republic”; Beata Nacsa, “Gender equality, Country report: Hungary.”
  35. Kristina Koldinská, “Gender equality, Country report: Czech Republic”; Beata Nacsa, “Gender equality, Country report: Hungary”; Eleonora Zielinska, “Gender equality, Country report: Poland”; Zuzana Magurová, Gender equality, Country report: Slovakia.”
  36. Kristina Koldinská, “Gender equality, Country report: Czech Republic.”
  37. “Gender pay gap,” European Commission, Justice, Gender Equality, 2015, http://bit.ly/1bIYH1g (accessed September 16, 2016).
  38. Ibid.
Jan Adamec

Jan Adamec

is editor of the V4Revue, historian and political scientist. His area of expertise is the history of Hungary, USSR and Czechoslovakia 1948 – 1957. He graduated from Central European University in Budapest and Charles University in Prague where he currently completes his PhD degree with thesis about the Hungarian uprising in 1956.