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Mexico: Gender Roles In The Wage Gap

By Fernanda Garcia, IMCO

Last Saturday, the International Day for Equal Pay was commemorated for the second consecutive year. The United Nations General Assembly established this day in order to achieve the fifth goal of sustainable development: 
achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by the year 2030. The right to receive the same salary forworking with the same value is part of the path that must be traveled to achieve it. In Mexico, the challenge is to 
understand why the wage gap remains, and why closing it goes beyond legislating.

In the country, 45 out of every 100 women aged 15 and over are economically active, while 78 out of every 100 
men are. That means that in 2019 the labor participation rate of men was 1.7 times higher than that of women. 
Despite efforts to include more women in the labor market, our country ranks 38 out of 43 in this indicator within 
the 2021 International Competitiveness Index (ICI) recently published by IMCO.

The gender pay gap is one of the explanations for the under-representation of women in the labor market. In Mexico this gap is 13%, that is, for every 100 pesos that a man receives on average for his work per month, a woman 
receives 87. One of the main causes of the wage gap lies in traditional gender roles: women spend 2.6 times more 
time than men in unpaid caregiving. In the absence of time and flexible formal employment options, most women 
seek to work under part-time contracts, for fees, or seek self-employment or entrepreneurship, which penalizes their income significantly.

Thus, it can be observed that women make up the majority of the informal economy, 55% of them are employed in 
the informal sector compared to 50% of men. This, in addition to damaging their income, implies that they do not 
have access to social protection or health services.

Families tend to sacrifice the lowest salary to attend to caregiving roles and housework, which generally happens to be that of women. When wanting to reintegrate into the paid economy, generally after childbearing, and even in the formal sector, women face a salary penalty due to their absence from the professional sphere. Here, the wage gap 
becomes a barrier for more women to enter, develop, and stay in the labor market.

It is no coincidence that countries that occupy the first places in the ICI also have a greater participation of women 
in their economy, such as Norway (60.6%) or Denmark (63.6%), and that in turn register gender wage gaps that are so close at 5%. We must turn to see what other countries are doing to close gender pay gaps and promote better life-work integration practices. In Denmark, for example, 52 weeks of shared paid parental leave is granted, a policy 
that is accompanied by a national subsidized childcare system.

In Mexico, it is important to resume the discussion of the opinion on equal pay that is pending approval in the 
Chamber of Deputies, which, unlike other initiatives, seeks to reform 13 laws to eliminate discriminatory practices 
that perpetuate income inequality. But reforming the law will not cause an automatic or immediate increase in 
women's participation in the economy; equal pay initiatives must be accompanied by policies that resolve obstacles that exist within companies and even within households. Doing so is in our best interest as a country.

Fernanda Garcia, is Inclusive Society Coordinator for IMCO (Instituto Mexicano Para La Competitividad A.C.)