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The Glass Ceiling in Europe: Why Are Women Doing Badly in the Labour Market?

  • Alison L. Booth

Average gender pay gaps have absorbed the interest of economists for many years. More recently studies have begun to explore the degree to which observed gender wage gaps might differ across the wages distribution. The stylised facts from these studies, summarised in the first part of the paper, are that the gender pay gap in Europe is typically increasing across the wages distribution. This finding - more pronounced in the private than the public sector - has been interpreted as a glass ceiling effect. The existence of this glass ceiling suggests that the average gender pay gap in Europe is mainly due to the gender gap towards the top of the wages distribution. What explains these stylised facts? We briefly outline some relevant hypotheses in the second part of the paper. A fundamental challenge for labour economists is to identify the extent to which these stylised facts are due to policies and institutions, discrimination, to other unobservable factors, or to fundamental differences between men and women. Finally, we briefly summarise the policy initiatives that might be introduced to deal with gender wage gaps.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 542.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:542
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