Labour Market intermittency and its effect on gender wage gap in Spain


Inmaculada Cebrián y Gloria Moreno

Revue Interventions économiques 47 (2013) Emploi et inégalités sociales.


The current economic crisis is having a profound impact from a gender perspective on the traditional Spanish labour market model, as women are currently assuming a more active role in comparison to their male counterparts. Nevertheless important gender differences still remain, especially in wages. The objective of this paper is to point out the gender differences in labour market interruptions with reference to its role on the explanation of gender wage differences in Spain. This issue is extremely interesting due to many circumstances. On the one hand, in Spain the gender wage gap has been analyze in many studies, using different methodologies and data sources, but the employment trajectories are only measured using variables of potential employment or experience on the current job. On the other hand, Spain has traditionally had one of the lowest female employment rates in the European Union as well as it has one of the highest gender wage gap. Although this scenario is changing, Spain still has a higher incidence of the traditional male breadwinner model. Family formation and motherhood are still associated with a sharp decline in women’s employment rates despite rising participation rates as younger cohorts of women move through their working lives.

We use the information from the Continuous Sample of Working Lives (MCVL), from years 2005 to 2010, that provides information on labour trajectories of individuals. With this source of data it is possible to define an index to control for the whole information from any type of employment interruption. We use this index as an instrument with the aim of measuring the importance of drop-outs of the employment in the explanation of gender wage gap in Spain. This index is an appropriate measure to weight the interruptions in employment trajectories and it reflects the total time outside employment during the observed working live, how many spells of interruption are and how long ago the last interruption was. These three components are related and analyzed together what could be a good indicator of the role of interruptions of employment during the life cycle. In particular, it allows observing the differences between male and female careers and it is an appropriate measure of the valuation that the employer will make in deciding what wage will pay to the employee.

The results of this analysis show that women have a higher index than men, especially in the middle ages, probably coinciding with the periods of maternity when women can decide to quit the labour market for a short or long time or forever. The differences are mainly found in the average duration of these breaks, which are greater for women. It is important to point out that interruptions of employment have a negative impact on wages, both for men and women, although it is slightly higher for women.

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