Measuring the gender pay gap for action in the Autonomous Province of Trento, Italy

Roberta Corazza

Public Health Service of the Autonomous Province of Trento, Italy

According to the Global Gender Gap Index, in 2018, Italy ranked 70th among 149 countries in terms of participation in economic and political activity, access to education and health. The Health Observatory of the Autonomous Province of Trento, Italy, has taken measures to establish a baseline for monitoring the gender pay gap among employees working in its public health system over time, and propose coherent, wide-ranging action to tackle it effectively.

Gender gap in economic opportunities and the 2030 Agenda

Despite the development of functional flexibility in workplaces, women still face greater barriers than men regarding entry to, and mobility and permanence in, the labour market. Even within the public sector, female workers have less decision-making autonomy, lower salaries and fewer career opportunities than men, opting for qualifications that seem more compatible with the management of family responsibilities.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underlines that fighting against gender inequalities and enhancing the participation of women in and equal opportunities for leadership are priorities for social and economic development. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 of the 2030 Agenda identifies the need to achieve equal economic opportunities, also through the promotion of shared responsibilities within the household and the family (Target 5.4); SDG 8 recalls the urgent need for full and productive employment and decent work for all women, based on equal opportunities and free from any form of discrimination (Target 8.5).

The gender pay gap in the public health system of the Autonomous Province of Trento

Stimulated by the RHN workshop, "Gender health, women's health strategy, men's health strategy", held in Lugano, Switzerland, on 17–18 April 2018, the Health Observatory of the Autonomous Province of Trento has taken measures to establish the gender pay gap among employees working in the public health system of the Province. The administrative data for 2017, provided by the Public Health Authority, revealed a difference of 35% in annual remuneration between men and women (unadjusted gender pay gap). That is, for every € 100 earned by men, women earned an average of € 65. Based on equal professional qualifications and contractual characteristics, the gender pay gap drops to 4.5%, but does not disappear.

The data show that women employed in the public health system earn less because the distribution of professional qualifications, amount of work performed and careers paths is still disproportionate. Women account for 70% of the employees, but this proportion drops to 50% in the managerial area. Within the same professional area, the female presence decreases as the professional level increases: women make up 60% of first-level managers, but they occupy only 15% of top-leadership positions. Finally, 44% of the female employees have adopted methods of conciliating working and family life, such as taking part-time jobs, compared to 9% of their male colleagues.

Measuring is knowing: action to counteract gender inequalities

Documenting gender pay inequalities means going beyond the concept of equal pay for the same job. The gender pay gap is a measure of the impact of gender stereotypes that limit the professional and economic potential of women and expose them to a higher risk of poverty and discrimination. From a public health perspective, addressing gender inequalities also means dealing with the social determinants behind the unequal distribution of health opportunities and discrimination.

Since it is still a neglected problem, systematically measuring the gender pay gap through the current administrative data is the first concrete step to document the phenomenon and trigger action to counteract it effectively.

Following the analysis of quantitative data, the Health Observatory of the Autonomous Province of Trento is currently conducting a series of in-depth interviews with key stakeholders (health services managers; trade unions representatives; politicians) to gather their perspectives and identify action to address the issue.