Skip to main content

The increase of the gender wage gap in Italy during the 2008-2012 economic crisis

Abstract

The Italian gender wage gap is lower than in other European countries, however it increased during the 2008-2012 economic crisis, while in most countries it decreased. This paper finds that the main cause of this increase is the 2010-11 public sector wage freeze, which was introduced as an austerity measure by the Italian government. We estimate the level of the gender wage gap as if the wage freeze had not been implemented, applying a counterfactual analysis. We find that the wage freeze accounts for more than 100% of the increase of the wage gap, while other factors in sum reduced the wage gap. The paper also examines the evolution of the gap from 2004 to 2012 using the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition and a quantile decomposition. The gender wage gap is found to be unexplained by observed characteristics. After 2010 it is particularly high in the upper part of the wage distribution, indicating the existence of a glass ceiling in addition to a sticky floor.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Addabbo, T., Favaro, D.: Gender wage differentials by education in Italy. Appl. Econ. 43(29), 4589–4605 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Arulampalam, W., Booth, A.L., Bryan, M.L.: Is there a glass ceiling over Europe? Exploring the gender pay gap across the wage distribution. Ind. Labor Relat. Rev. 60(2), 163–186 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Banca d’Italia: The labour market. In: Annual Report for 2011, pp. 67–78. Banca d’Italia (2012)

  4. Banca d’Italia: The labour market. In: Annual Report for 2012, pp. 73–81. Banca d’Italia (2013)

  5. Bettio, F.: Perché in Italia si riapre il gender pay gap. InGenere, 30 May (2013)

  6. Bettio, F., Corsi, M., D’Ippoliti, C., Lyberaki, A., Lodovici, M.S., Verashchagina, A.: The impact of the economic crisis on the situation of women and men and on gender equality policies. Synthesis report, European Commission (2013)

  7. Blau, F.D., Kahn, L.M.: The gender wage gap: Extent, trends, and explanations. J. Econ. Lit. 55(3), 789–865 (2017)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Blinder, A.S.: Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates. J. Hum. Resour. 8(4), 436–455 (1973)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bordogna, L.: Employment relations and union action in the Italian public services: Is there a case of distortion of democracy? Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal 34 (2), 507–530 (2013)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bordogna, L., Neri, S.: Social dialogue and the public services in the aftermath of the economic crisis: strengthening partnership in an era of austerity in Italy. National report VP/2011/001, European Commission project, Industrial Relations and Social Dialogue (2012)

  11. Brandolini, A., D’Amuri, F., Faiella, I.: Country case study-Italy. In: Jenkins, S.P., Brandolini, A., Micklewright, J., Nolan, B. (eds.) The Great Recession and the Distribution of Household Income, pp. 130–152. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2013)

  12. Bredtmann, J., Otten, S., Rulff, C.: Husband’s unemployment and wife’s labor supply. The Added Worker Effect across Europe, ILR Review. https://doi.org/10.1177/0019793917739617 (2017)

  13. Chernozhukov, V., Fernández-Val, I., Melly, B.: Inference on Counterfactual Distributions. Econometrica 81(6), 2205–2268 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Christofides, L.N., Polycarpou, A., Vrachimis, K.: Gender wage gaps, ‘sticky floors’ and ‘glass ceilings’ in Europe. Labour Econ. 21, 86–102 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Christopoulou, R., Monastiriotis, V.: Public-private wage duality during the greek crisis. Oxf. Econ. Pap. 68(1), 174–196 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Del Bono, E., Vuri, D.: Job mobility and the gender wage gap in Italy. Labour Econ. 18(1), 130–142 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Depalo, D., Giordano, R., Papapetrou, E.: Public-private wage differentials in euro-area countries: evidence from quantile decomposition analysis. Empir. Econ. 49 (3), 985–1015 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. EPSU: The wrong target one year on: pay cuts in the public sector in the European Union. Technical report, Labour Research Department (2012)

  19. Eurostat: Activity rates by sex, age and citizenship. Accessed at http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-datasets/product?code=lfsa_argan (December 2017) (2017a)

  20. Eurostat: Sustainable development indicators: social inclusion. Gender pay gap in unadjusted form. Accessed at http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&language=en&pcode=tsdsc340&plugin=1 (December 2017) (2017b)

  21. Figari, F., Fiorio, C.V.: Fiscal Consolidation Policies in the Context of Italy’s Two Recessions. Fisc. Stud. 36(4), 499–526 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fortin, N., Lemieux, T., Firpo, S.: Decomposition methods in economics. In: Ashenfelter, O., Card, D. (eds.) Handbook of Labor Economics 4A, pp. 1–102. Elsevier, North Holland (2011)

  23. Ghignoni, E., Verashchagina, A.: Can the crisis be an opportunity for women? In malo. In: M. A., Sciulli, D. (eds.) Disadvantaged Workers, AIEL Series in Labour Econ, pp 257–276. Springer International Publishing, Cham (2014)

  24. Heckman, J.: Shadow prices, market wages, and labor supply. Econometrica 42 (4), 679–694 (1974)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Istat: Migrations. Accessed at dati.istat.it (December 2017) (2017a)

  26. Istat: Unemployment rate. Accessed at dati.istat.it (December 2017) (2017b)

  27. Koenker, R., Bassett, G.J.: Regression quantiles. Econometrica 46(1), 33–50 (1978)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Mussida, C., Picchio, M.: The gender wage gap by education in Italy. J. Econ. Inequal. 12(1), 117–147 (2014a)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Mussida, C., Picchio, M.: The trend over time of the gender wage gap in Italy. Empir. Econ. 46(3), 1081–1110 (2014b)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Neuman, S., Oaxaca, R.L.: Gender versus ethnic wage differentials among professionals: Evidence from Israel. Annales d’Économie et de Statistique 71/72, 267–292 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Nicodemo, C.: Gender pay gap and quantile regression in European families. IZA Discussion Paper 3978 (2009)

  32. Oaxaca, R.: Male-female wage differentials in urban labor markets. Int. Econ. Rev. 14(3), 693–709 (1973)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Olivetti, C., Petrongolo, B.: Unequal pay or unequal employment? A cross-country analysis of gender gaps. J. Labor Econ. 26(4), 621–654 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Piazzalunga, D.: Is there a double-negative effect? Gender and ethnic wage differentials in Italy. LABOUR: Review of Labour Economics and Industrial Relations 29(3), 243–269 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Piazzalunga, D.: The gender wage gap among college graduates in Italy. Italian Econ. J. 4(1), 33–90 (2018)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Shorrocks, A.F.: Decomposition procedures for distributional analysis: a unified framework based on the Shapley value. J. Econ. Inequal. 11(1), 99–126 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Sierminska, E., Takhtamanova, Y.: Job flows, demographics, and the Great Recession. In: Immervoll, H., Peichl, A., Tatsiramos, K. (eds.) Who loses in the downturn? Economic crisis, employment and income distribution (Research in Labor Economics, volume 32), pp. 115–154. Emerald Publishing Limited (2011)

  38. Tronti, L.: Regulating wages and collective bargaining in the public sector. Technical report, Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri, Dipartimento della Funzione Pubblica (2011)

  39. Villa, P., Smith, M.: Gender equality, employment policies and the crisis in EU member states. Synthesis report, European Commission (2010)

Download references

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Karina Doorley for very useful suggestions. We also want to thank Leif Andreassen, Paolo Brunori, Marina Della Giusta, Alessio Fusco, Ronald Oaxaca, Raul Ramos, Enrico Rettore, Mariacristina Rossi, Eva Sierminska, Steinar Strøm, Philippe Van Kerm for helpful discussions and comments, as well as seminar participants at the University of Cambridge, LISER, FBK-IRVAPP, University of Modena, University of Torino, and conference participants at 2014 EALE, 2015 AIEL, 2016 ISTAT. The article has also benefited from useful comments by one editor of the journal, the associate editor, and the anonymous referees. We thank Collegio Carlo Alberto for financial and technical support. Part of this research was conducted while Daniela Piazzalunga was visiting LISER, and she would like to acknowledge their hospitality.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniela Piazzalunga.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(PDF 429 KB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Piazzalunga, D., Di Tommaso, M.L. The increase of the gender wage gap in Italy during the 2008-2012 economic crisis. J Econ Inequal 17, 171–193 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10888-018-9396-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Gender wage gap
  • Great recession
  • Public sector premium
  • Decomposition
  • Counterfactual analysis