A woman at work.
A woman at work. / SUR

The salary gap is widening in Spain and could take more than a century to close

  • The 2007 Equality Law has failed to equalise salaries and Spain is lagging way behind other European countries

"If we show emotion, they say we're being dramatic. If we want to play against men, we're nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunities, we are delusional...."

That was the voice of American tennis star Serena Williams at the Oscar awards ceremony, talking about the lack of equality in sport. She was featuring in the latest advertisement by Nike, and her words led many to reflect upon the fact that any woman who runs a marathon, boxes, trains in the NBA, wins 23 Grand Slams, stops competing to have a baby and then comes back for more, could be called 'crazy'.

"If they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do," she says at the end of the advert. Thanks to "the craziest dreams" of women there has been some progress towards equality in sport, but there is still a long way to go.

It is true that in recent decades there has been a major step forward in terms of equality in sport, including in Spain, where women won 11 of the 17 Olympic medals in Rio de Janeiro. However, the real gender gap comes in the amount of money earned by sportswomen compared with men. Tennis was the first to take a step towards equality by equalling the winning prizes in its four Grand Slams (Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the US Open and Australian Open), but in other sports such as golf, cycling and football, the differences are scandalous.

The salary gap is widening in Spain and could take more than a century to close

In golf, for example, the difference between the winnings of male and female players is more than one million dollars (nearly 880,000 euros), while in cycling the members of the Movistar women's team earn less than one-third of those in the men's team. In football, the difference in the amount paid by the federation to the women's league champions (1,352 euros) and their male counterparts for TV broadcasts (20 million) is, to say the least, embarrassing.

Looking at these figures, nobody can be surprised that there is only one woman on the Forbes List of the world's 100 wealthiest athletes: Serena Williams. Unfortunately, a report presented at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos made it clear that this inequality is not likely to end soon; in fact, it calculated that it could take over 100 years.

The salary gap is widening in Spain and could take more than a century to close

Spain is one of the most backward countries in terms of equal salaries, coming 129th out of the 149 countries studied for that Davos report. In the past decade the salary gap, far from reducing, has increased, even though in 2007 the first law was passed to effectively eliminate any type of discrimination against women. Many of those measures have come to nothing, and even the government admits that the results have been negligible. A recent Cabinet meeting gave the go-ahead to a whole range of proposals, such as making public the average salaries of any company which discriminates by gender, to try to overcome the situation of "insupportable and unjustifiable inequality" which exists at present.

According to a recent report produced by the UGT union, on average, women in Spain earn nearly 5,800 euros a year less than men. This means that men earn 28.7% more than women; or, looked at the other way round, women earn 22.3% less than men. This last figure is nearly half a point higher than in 2008, which was the lowest in the past decade.

The widest gap occurred in 2013, when it rose to 24 per cent after increasing over five years. It has reduced in the past three years, but not enough to mark a new low. Today, "women need to work ten years longer than men to obtain the same amount of pay," says Cristina Antoñanzas, general vice-secretary of the UGT, who also points out that two out of every ten working women are poor (twice as many as men) and "more than half of female workers earn 1,000 euros a month at most".

The maximum difference set by the government under this new equality law is 25 per cent; if any company has a higher gap than that, it will be considered guilty of discrimination and will have to justify it. However, in many sectors the average gap is already bigger than 25 per cent, including banking, insurance, commerce, real estate, administration, health and social services, among others.

Sources: INE, Deloitte, BBVA, Ministerio de Empleo & Seguridad, CNMV, Asociación DigitalES, Ministerio de Cultura & Deporte

Sources: INE, Deloitte, BBVA, Ministerio de Empleo & Seguridad, CNMV, Asociación DigitalES, Ministerio de Cultura & Deporte / R. Parrado

However, it is not all bad news. Spain has advanced considerably in equality in terms of access to education and health, according to the Davos report. In fact, in this country more women than men go to university, although in the labour market there are 11 per cent fewer women than men, compared with 17.4 per cent in 2008. There are now at least 1.7 million more men working than women, although the difference has dropped by over a million in the past ten years.

On the other hand, female unemployment is 3.4 per cent higher than that of men, and even though the rate of female employment has risen nearly six points since 2013, to 59.6 per cent in 2017, Spain is still behind other European countries in this respect.