Despite high labour force participation rate for women, gender pay gap on the rise

Gender pay gap has expanded in Viet Nam where the labour force participation rate of women stands high in the world.

Press release | 07 March 2013
HANOI (ILO News) –Gender pay gap has expanded in Viet Nam where the labour force participation rate of women stands high in the world, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.

About 72 per cent of women are in the labour force in Viet Nam, which means far more Vietnamese women have a job than most of other countries around the globe.

However, Viet Nam is among a few countries in the world where gender pay gap has been widening while the gap has declined in most nations in the 2008-11 period compared to 1999-2007 according to the ILO Global Wage Report 2012-13. A 2 per cent increase in the gap was recorded in Viet Nam in the period.

The 2011 General Statistical Office data showed that women earn 13 per cent less than men. The 2012 survey on workers’ salaries carried out by the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) in enterprises nationwide revealed that female workers’ salaries are only 70-80 per cent of their male colleagues’. The global average gender pay gap is hovering around 17 per cent.

“The widening gap is worrying even though it is difficult to pinpoint the exact percentage in Viet Nam as wage and income data are not systematically collected and surveys do not always take into account the entire remuneration package, including benefits, bonuses or allowances,” ILO Asia-Pacific Senior Specialist on International Labour Standards, Tim De Meyer.

The latest Labour Force Survey Report published in 2012 showed that female workers have lower monthly incomes than their male colleagues in all economic sectors – State, non-State and foreign-invested.

Women still earn less than men even in the industries which employ more female workers such as healthcare, social works and sales.

Meanwhile according to the VGCL survey, women usually hold lower positions whereas most of management posts belong to men.

VGCL Vice President Nguyen Thi Thu Hong said female workers often have fewer training opportunities before and during their work career compared to their male colleagues and women with families even face more difficulties.

Gender pay gap is a worldwide phenomenon, said ILO specialist De Meyer, and traditionally “female” jobs are often paid less because they are women.

Motor mechanics – a male-dominated job, for instance, are paid more than nurses who are mostly women around the world even though nursing should score higher in terms of required skills, training, working conditions and responsibility.

“It is a systematic undervaluation and overvaluation of work regardless of its real requirements, toughness and competitiveness,” said Mr De Meyer.

Structural factors also contributed to the widening gender wage gap in Viet Nam during the crisis period as women were over-represented in export-oriented manufacturing jobs that were particularly affected by the global credit crunch.

The specialist recommended Viet Nam manage to implement the principle of “equal pay for work of equal value” stipulated in the Labour Code. Only by enabling a comparison between the remuneration of women and men when they do different work can it become apparent that women earn less because their remuneration reflects the sex of the worker rather than the contents of the job.

Also according to VGCL Vice President Hong, law enforcement in general is another problem in the issue of gender discrimination which is already prohibited in the national labour law.

“Gender gap cannot be addressed overnight. It requires a process that involves the efforts of not only enterprises, trade unions but also female workers themselves,” she added. The ILO National Project Coordinator for Gender Equality Nguyen Kim Lan said women should have better access to education, skill training, job opportunities and promotion without gender stereotype and discrimination.

“It’s important to tap into the talent of half of the labour force and the potential benefits of the workforce diversity,” she said.