Minister worried by labour obstacles for women

Women’s Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek promised to keep fighting gender disparities on the labour market as a survey shows that men earn significantly more than women of the same social background.

Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) researchers compared the careers of 250 graduates to find out that the pay gap between the male and female participants of the study increased over the years. WU experts stressed that they considered aspects like social background, education, age, family status and how determined the graduates were when it came to achieving as much as possible in their careers.

Heinisch-Hosek said today (Thurs) she would not stop calling for more transparency in companies’ job offers. The Social Democrat (SPÖ) said all firms should reveal in employment ads how much applicants would earn if they were hired. The minister for women and civil servants said such steps could help to lower the salary disparities between men and women in Austria.

Statistics show that female staff earn 18 per cent less on average than their male colleagues. Heinisch-Hosek said women were disadvantaged further as far as money was concerned due to lower pensions following years in part-time positions. The minister identified many enterprises’ inflexibility regarding maternity leaves as another crucial problem.

“Many women are asked in job interviews whether they might become pregnant. I have also been informed about dismissals because of pregnancies,” Heinisch-Hosek – whose party forms a government coalition with the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) since 2007 – told radio station Ö1.

Heinisch-Hosek explained she wanted to continue campaigning for clear rules in these concerns but also said that no one kept business bosses from creating fairer circumstances without legal pressure and mandatory regulations. The minister suggested that firms could set up an agreed rate of female trainees or allow staff to organise their working schedules more flexibly to avoid neglecting family affairs.

Statistik Austria figures show that Austrian men earned around 44,600 Euros before tax on average in 2010 while women were paid only 34,000 Euros. More than four in 10 women employed by private economy companies based in Austria do part-time at the moment. Just seven per cent of their male colleagues have the same kind of contracts.

Heinisch-Hosek said she was concerned by the result of a poll showing that many women were unaware of the various negative consequences the decision to do part-time could mean. She appealed to female employees to be extraordinarily careful in making a decision. Many women see part-time job agreements as a good way to manage both labour and family duties while the minister underlines that part-time usually also means lower pensions.