The question was very reasonable: "If a man and a woman are doing the same job and have the same responsibility, is it possible for the woman to be paid less than the man?" And the answer was a very firm "no". This was made clear this week by Dolores de la Fuente, a Work Inspector and specialist in discrimination and inequality, who came to Malaga to take part in a meeting organised by the UGT trade union to commemorate International Women's Day. "In Franco's day there were different salaries for the same job, but luckily that no longer applies," she insisted.
If that is the case, how is it possible that the salary gap in Malaga is said to be about 28 per cent? Dolores says there is no difference in the salary which applies to a job, but there is still a practical difference because of a complicated and extensive evaluation of workers' individual probabilities of promotion or of accessing certain jobs within the same company.
"One part of the salary gap is resolved by companies themselves, by applying equality protocols, but on the other hand there is still a considerable discrimination in terms of salaries in society," she said. She also pointed out that there are different agreements on working conditions "under which some professional categories are paid less than others", and these categories sometimes coincide with jobs which are mainly carried out by women, such as cleaning. There are also differences in productive sectors, and the highest salaries are paid for work which is usually done by men. "Sectors such as the iron and steel industry have higher salaries than sectors which mainly involve women, like professional care of children or elderly people," said Dolores. "It reflects the importance attributed to these jobs by society." She also gives another example: "People only have to compare how much they pay per hour for a woman to look after their children, and how much per hour they pay a plumber."
It is these differences which produce - and widen - the salary gap, in the same way that a man, because he is a man, "will be more likely to be promoted in his work because he is not expected to care for children or ask to shorten his working day". In other words, men have more options of earning a bigger salary than women.
In this expert's opinion, the present laws and mechanisms are sufficient but there needs to be a change in social thinking. "We also need to find out exactly where these salary gaps are occurring," she says.