The gender pay gap for expats...

Published 2020-02-04 11:30

Last week, the Marketing Week’s Career and Salary Survey in the United States released data on the gender pay gap in the marketing sector. The gender pay gap can be found across sectors and countries… but does it affect expats?

Whether you’re a man or a woman, you make the important life decision to move away from your home country to make a better life for yourself and your family.

It’s true a new country may offer you better wages. But despite these better opportunities and a world that claims to treat both genders equally, the truth is, pay is lacking for female expats.

This year, AXA - Global Healthcare found that while 62% of male expats benefited from a higher salary after expatriating, only 53% of women had the same experience. This may be due to a few factors. We’ll explore them below.

Unpaid work isn’t factored in

Women do at least 2.5 times more unpaid work than men do. This means that not only are all the cooking, cleaning, and childcare not factored into their “worth”, but it also means women have less time to devote to paid work. Because of this, many women work part-time instead of full-time, which can largely explain why women seem to get paid significantly less than men do.

You also have to consider that the unpaid work women do alleviates a lot of financial stress that’d inevitably come if they decided to work full-time. For example, should a woman decide to work full-time, a household might have to hire a nanny and housekeeper, which would eat away a large portion of both the man and the woman’s salaries.

For quality of life, the Nordic countries are clear winners

In PwC’s Women in Work Index 2019, the report found that Iceland and Sweden consistently ranked at the top, with New Zealand trailing close behind. 

Iceland is particularly good for expat women because as of 2018, they became the first country to completely close the gender pay gap. While unequal pay between genders has been illegal for quite some time in many countries, Iceland’s the first one to step up and require employers to have proper certification that indicates they pay everyone in the same role equal wages.

Not only has Iceland achieved a huge milestone, but they’ve also reduced their female unemployment rate as well. They also have the highest female labour force participation rate. 

In addition, Iceland allows for 13 weeks of shared parental leave, which also helps immensely with the potential lost wages that come with the early parts of parenthood.

Sweden is almost neck and neck with Iceland, considering they have a female employment rate of 69%. This country actually has one more week of parental leave than Iceland; new parents in Sweden get 14 weeks off combined.

Salary may not always be a number one priority

Despite such gaps in wages for male vs female expats, it may not be as big a deal as you’d think it’d be. AXA - Global Healthcare found that while 27% of male expats moved for better pay and benefits, only 18% of female expats listed that as the main reason for moving.

Compare the above statistic with this one: 11% of female expats moved because of their partners’ work, while only 5% of male expats did the same. You should also consider that many female expats may be willing to forego better pay in order to see the world and have better life experiences. That alone can be worth it to them, even if their new salary isn’t the best it could be.

Still, women are just as good as men at their jobs. If they’re to relocate, women should enjoy the same increases in wages, even if their main priority isn’t their salary. If men can get a pay increase, shouldn’t women too?

While obvious gender pay gaps still exist in the world, there’s definitely hope. If countries across the globe would follow the example Nordic countries are setting, then women stand to benefit from a better quality of life, even when wages aren’t their main concern.