The effect of occupational segregation on gender pay gap

gender based disparity

Historically, men and women have worked in different occupations. This phenomenon has existed across time periods and across geographies. Even today, occupational segregation continues to exist not only in developing economies, but also in the advanced economies of the west. There is a clear link between occupational segregation and gender pay gap that can be established from the employment data available in various parts of the world.

Occupational Segregation. or gender based disparity in labour market in India has far-reacing economic consequences, especially in terms of the widening of the pay gap between men and women. Skewed Occupational Distribution and predominance of casual workers among the women groups are major reasons for such disparity. Earning differential is pronounced both in the economically lagging and advanced states in India, and a rise in disparities in the post-reform period indicates that high growth-high private investment-tertiary sector boom is creating new divide in the society in terms of deprivation and discrimination. As discrimination leads to disparities in capability formation and ownership of assets, the women are unable to participate in the growing economic affluence and become marginalized. (1)

In 1999, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) conducted a study on the gender division of labour in Tamil Nadu, India. It sponsored some entrepreneurial projects for women, and helped them to receive financial assistance from banks. Fully 30% of women who had taken bank loans reported a marked change in gender roles, and 70% reported a small change. However, the income-generating activities of the majority of women in male-headed households (for which loans had been taken) continued to be managed by men. (2)

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held an international seminar in New Delhi in February, 2008 that highlighted the issue of occupational segregation resulting in gender pay gap in India. A paper presented at the seminar pointed out to evidence that suggests that most of the trade related sectors do not provide secure or long lasting employment opportunities for women. The paper further went on to say that several studies have found little decline in occupational segregation by gender over the last two decades. (3)
In India, although the phenomenon continues to pervade through the system, but there have been only a few formal studies to determine the actual impact of gender-based occupational segregation. In 2003, a team of labour researchers did a survey of women workers in three prominent industrial belts of India (Bangalore, Delhi and Pune). The study, conducted by Best Practices Foundation, Bangalore, and titled “Women Workers: Inequalities at Work,” concluded that women in India tend to be employed in a narrower range of occupations than men, and are more likely to work part-time or short-term. They also face more barriers to promotion and career development in the long run. (4)
To reduce pay inequalities, it is clear that the government and the public and private sector organizations need to work together and find ways to reduce gender-based occupational segregation at all levels. Education and training of women to make them well-equipped for all kinds of occupations also plays a pivotal role at a fundamental level to widen career opportunities for women in all sectors.


- Vikas Vij (views expressed in the article are that of the author)


(1) Majumder, Rajarshi (2007): Earning Differentials Across Social Groups: Evidences from India. Published in: Indian Journal of Labour Economics (2007)


(3) UNCTAD International Seminar on “Moving Towards Gender Sensitization of Trade Policy,” New Delhi, Feb. 2008 (





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