Men in Trinidad and Tobago are still earning more money than women although women are more educated than their male counterparts, a new Central Bank working paper has found.
Entitled "Understanding wages in a small, open economy: The case of Trinidad and Tobago", the paper was penned by members of the Research Department of the Central Bank, Reshma Mahabir, Vishana Jagessar, Crystal Neptune and Delvin Cox, and posted on the Bank's website last month.
It states: "Investigation into the determinants of wages at the individual level using Household Budgetary Survey of Trinidad and Tobago (HBS), which provides information on how gross monthly individual income is utilised, found that there was a gender pay gap in Trinidad and Tobago with women earning significantly less than men.
"This suggests that there is the need for the development of a wage equality policy, particularly in light of the popular perception that from an academic standpoint, women are doing better than men."
The paper cited data pointing to a gender bias in wages, (a phenomenon around the world), from different countries.
In the European Union women earn on average 17.5 per cent less than men, varying from nearly 31 per cent in Estonia to below five per cent in Italy.
In Australia, women earned 17.0 per cent less than men in 2009.
The study showed that women generally earned 35.3 per cent less than men.
"While we do not investigate the reasons for this, readings would suggest this may have to do with the type of jobs that women hold as well as the gender/wage gap for similar jobs. The figure for Trinidad and Tobago is also higher than that found in Bellony, Hoyos, & Ñopo (2010) who find that in Barbados men earn between 14 and 27 per cent more than women, and between eight and 17 per cent more than the average females" in Jamaica, the authors stated.
Notably, an earlier study using 1993 data for Trinidad and Tobago by Olsen and Coppin (2001) found that there was an earning differential of 19 per cent between the sexes.
"In regards to education the results indicate that generally the higher level of education a person receives the higher the level of wages earned. Persons who have received secondary and university level education also earn significantly more income than those without any education."
The study also noted that the size of the labour force had increased over the years, between 1995 and 2011 from 88,500 people to reach 609,500 people.
The labour force was dominated by men.
"Men account for 60 per cent of the labour force, although the number of females has been steadily increasing from approximately 220,000 in 2000 to 255,000 in 2011.
An examination of information provided in the Trinidad and Tobago Human Development Atlas 2012 shows that within Trinidad and Tobago participation rates vary for the labour force which comprises mainly adults (30 years and over) followed by youths (15-24 years) and young adults (25-29 years), in the case of men from 78.3 per cent in Chaguanas to 65.7 per cent in Arima, for women from 68.6 per cent in Tobago to 41.2 per cent in Princes Town."
A 2012 study that looked at the reasons for the lower rate of participation of women in this country identified factors such as the number of children in a household, access to social programmes and chronic illness as being important determinants that negatively affected a woman's decision to join the labour force.
Commenting on the wage gap last week, chairman of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence Diana Mahabir-Wyatt suggested legislation was needed in order to deal with it.
"Overall women earn about 73 per cent of what men are earning for jobs of similar value. It is not overt but covert and why people are asking for the legislation is to eliminate the covert distinctions that exist.
"Legislation is needed not only so that women are paid equivalent salaries to those of men but it will often work the other way. Because of their superior education women may be paid higher salaries or it may be assumed that women are better suited to certain jobs as in IT for example. Therefore, those jobs may be assigned to women in the future when both men and women can do them very well," she told the Business Express in a telephone interview last Friday.
Mahabir-Wyatt said although there was no inequality in relation to the gender of the person holding a job in the public service and in most collective agreements, the differential came with job status and content, and what jobs are normally assigned to women compared to what jobs are assigned to men.
"Traditionally, certain jobs were given to male workers on the assumption that those jobs required a greater physical strength; for example lifting of boxes, ploughing fields etc, although there was nothing in the designation of the job that said it had to go to a male or to a female.
"Nowadays because of technology those differentials have disappeared. Any male or female can drive a forklift truck, it doesn't take physical strength. A male or a female of any size can drive a backhoe or a tractor yet those jobs are still assigned to male workers and paid on a higher level than jobs requiring physical work assigned to females. So from that point of view, there is still a noticeable distinction in the wages paid to workers according to sex," she said.
Mahabir-Wyatt said the ability to perform a job function did not depend on gender, with the exception of some personal care contracts.
These could include care for elderly women but there were comparatively few jobs that were gender specific.