An interview with Dr Christina Klenner
Female dominated jobs are worth less - and are lower paid as a rule. But how, in general, do we compare jobs with each otherand how are job requirements and stresses measured? How differently do we value “female” and “male” professions? The Comparable Worth Index proves statistically for the first time that men and women are not equally paid for equivalent work. Dr Christina Klenner explains how companies can use the Index as a “gauge” for fair pay.
Fair Pay Innovation Lab: With the Comparable Worth Index, you have created, together with your colleagues Ute Klammer and Sarah Lillemeier, a measurement tool which compares the value of work and shows the influence of gender on pay. The Index builds on previous tools, but closes an important research gap. What’s new about it?
Dr. Christina Klenner: With the CW Index, we measure the requirements and stresses in occupations gender-neutrally. Each job is given a point value which indicates how great the combined requirements and stresses are, generally speaking. As a result we’re building on the so-called pair comparison in the Equal Pay Check (Entgeltgleichheits-Check, called eg-Check for short on the German site). What’s new is that we’re doing it on a statistical basis. Survey data from around 18,000 employees regarding job requirements were linked with official statistics about earnings in the occupations.
Using the CW Index makes different jobs comparable. It actually lets us compare apples with pears, therefore also typically male and typically female activities. That is necessary so as to be able pay the same for not only identical, but also equivalent work in companies. The common things that we measure are the requirements and stresses of the occupation, which are recorded, assessed and then compiled in an Index according to recognised job assessment methods. We follow on from earlier research, which for decades has been preoccupied with job assessment and activity comparison, e.g. ABAKABA in Switzerland, the revaluation debates in Germany and in the USA 20 to 30 years ago.
From our CW Index lists, it’s obvious how great the demands are in a particular occupation when compared to another occupation and what the average income should be for which job.
Is the undervaluation of typically female activities greater or smaller than suspected?
Even greater than expected are the requirements in healthcare professions. “Non-university nursing and midwifery professionals” have a relatively high CW Index value of 28, with lower pay than other jobs with the same CW Index value. They are on a par with engineers and qualified teachers in secondary education.
One unexpected result: Some male dominated occupations such as train drivers and electricians are also left behind other equivalent “male professions” in regards to pay.
You describe the CW Index as a “gauge” for companies. How can the analysis be translated from the macro-economic level to the company level?
The “gauge” – in quote marks – should indicate that the Index is a measurement tool. We can see how great the qualification requirements and necessary abilities are in total., but also the psychosocial, such as physical, stresses of certain jobs. That frequently contrast with our everyday idea of activities, which is often characterised by stereotypes.
First of all, companies can use the table of CW Index values for all occupations as a reference. Which activities take place at our company? How are they paid in the company in relation to economically average earnings? Does there appear to be a gender gap in the company in pay for these occupations? The CW Index can be refined further by companies, from the level of occupational classification, which we have used, to specific individual activities.
In the course of your investigation you have found that specific collective agreements are certainly neutrally formulated, however the underlying assessment of activities is anything but gender neutral. How can such legacy structures start out?
I can’t sweepingly endorse the claim in your question. To begin with, the data indicates that women profit more from collective agreements than men. Unequal pay for equivalent work decreases when it’s paid according to scale. It is of course true that non-gender neutral job assessments exist. We have developed a check-list of questions for this purpose with the EVA list for evaluation of job assessment methods, with the help of which, parties to a collective agreement can shed light on their contract.
What influence can transparency have on the reassessment of activities and how would you assess the German Law on pay transparency?
Transparency is important, but it only helps when identified unlawfulness leads to consequences. I would like to see clear obligations and sanctions in law and the law also covering smaller company sizes. Also, it must be possible to review different pay scale groups. If, as currently in the German Law on pay transparency, review of different pay scale groups is not permitted, this regulation amounts to a “clean bill of health” and doesn’t help if female employment is undervalued and underpaid. I see a great opportunity in the upcoming reassessment of activities, which change significantly in the course of digitisation.
Many thanks for the interview!
Dr. Christina Klenner is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Empirical Research in Economics (INES, Berlin). From 2008-2018, she was Head of Division for Gender Research at the Institute of Economic and Social Research (WSI) at the Hans-Böckler-Foundation in Düsseldorf. The focus of her work is gender-equal working hours and the income inequality of men and women.
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