Equal pay as a moving target: International perspectives on forty-years of addressing the gender pay gap

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O'Reilly, J 
Smith, M 

This paper provides an overview of the key factors impacting upon the gender pay gap in the UK, Europe and Australia. Forty years after the implementation of the first equal pay legislation, the pay gap remains a key aspect of the inequalities women face in the labour market. While the overall pay gap has tended to fall in many countries over the past forty years, it has not closed; in some countries it has been stubbornly resistant, or has even widened. In reviewing the collection of papers that make up this special issue we identify four broad themes with which to group the contributions and draw out the explanations for diverse trends: theoretical and conceptual debates; legal developments and their impacts; wage setting institutions and changing employer demands; and newly emerging pay inequalities between and within educational and ethnic groups. Across the four themes we underline how the trends in the gender pay gap capture the dynamism of inequalities, as the market power of different groups and stakeholders changes over times. Three key dimensions emerge from the papers to provide a framework for future research and policy discourse: the relationship between litigation and bargaining strategies; the interaction between wage-setting institutions and new organisational practices; and the increasing and range of diversity or equality strands competing for equal treatment. We conclude that progress towards closing the gender pay gap will not be easy, will require a collective effort of various actors, and will not be quick.

equal pay, gender pay gap, wage determination, collective bargaining, litigation, equality and diversity
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Cambridge Journal of Economics
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