New study: Part-time work is an important driver of the gender wage gap

22 Feb 2022

Part-time work increasingly drives the gender wage gap in Germany.

© imago/photothek

The gender wage gap refers to the inequality in (hourly) wages between men and women, with women earning on average lower wages. On the surface, it looks as if this wage gap between men and women has been stalling in recent decades, even though women have caught up with men significantly in terms of educational qualifications and job experience . A new study now reveals countervailing factors, showing that part-time work in particular exacerbates the gender wage gap: “The expansion of part-time work over the past few decades, especially among women, has been accompanied by a clear increase in the gender wage gap,” says LMU sociologist Katrin Auspurg. “This is due to the growing wage differentials between part-time and full-time work and to the fact that increasingly women tend to work part time more frequently than men.” This development has offset the closing of the gender wage gap achieved by women catching up in human capital and some other trends in gender wage inequalities.

Katrin Auspurg, professor in Sociology with a focus on quantitative empirical research at LMU, and her PhD student Laila Schmitt have investigated the development of wage inequality in hourly wages between men and women in Western Germany over a period of 30 years. “As such, we analyze a longer trend series of the gender wage gap than has previously existed,” says Laila Schmitt. These analyses reveal that the pay differential between part-time and full-time jobs has widened over the period. Without these developments, and the increasing selection of women into part-time work, the gender wage gap in Western Germany would have closed by an additional 17 percent over the past three decades, according to the study.

Greater labor force participation of women, but at lower wages

In recent years, the labor market participation of women has greatly increased. However, the researchers found that this trend stalled the closing of the gender wage inequality. “Although the expanded opportunities for working part time have brought more women into the labor market, the shorter working hours are associated with lower hourly and monthly wages among employees,” explains Laila Schmitt.

The researchers argue that gender differences in working hours should be paid more attention in family and labor market policies. More balanced working hours and higher hourly wages for part-time work could lead to a closing of the gender wage gap. Possible starting points could be to increase the share of men in part-time jobs or to promote better paid part-time work through reforms of the institutional framework (such as alternative forms of work organization).


Laila Schmitt, Katrin Auspurg: A Stall Only on the Surface? Working Hours and the Persistence of the Gender Wage Gap in Western Germany 1985-2014. In: European Sociological Review 2022

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