The economy may be recovering, but it’s leaving women behind.
The pay gap between male and female workers widened last year for the first time since the beginning of the economic recovery. Women earned 80.9 percent of what men earned in 2012, compared to 82.2 percent in 2011, according to a study released Thursday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
Male workers saw their pay go up slightly from 2011, while women workers made a little bit less than they did in 2011. As a result women made about $163 dollars less per week in 2012 than men.
The widening pay gap can largely be explained by the types of jobs women are gaining and losing, Ariane Hegewisch, one of the study’s researchers told The Huffington Post. In 2012, government budget tightening led to cuts in public sector jobs, which disproportionately affected women . At the same time, job growth for women came in low-paying sectors like retail and service.
“Public sector jobs for women — especially at the state and local level — were cut during 2012, they might go further during the sequester,” she said. “Public sector jobs are good jobs for women because they’re median- and higher-qualified jobs. They’re good middle-income jobs and when budgets are cut those jobs go.”
As women lose better-paying jobs and gain worse-paying ones , job growth in male-dominated, relatively well-paying sectors like manufacturing, construction and car sales has been on the rise. Men suffered more job losses during the recession and as the recovery progresses, they’re catching up, Hegewisch says.
“Men always had middle-income, better-paying jobs so they’re getting those jobs back,” she said.
It’s common for the gender wage gap to narrow during recessions and grow during boom times, according to Hegewisch.
“Typically what you get in recessions is that the wage gap shrinks because things like overtime disappear and nobody gets much merit pay or bonuses,” Hegewisch said. “Then in boom times it grows, because bonuses and overtime come back and women tend to get less of those.”
Women may be getting paid less for years to come. If the current rate of progress on closing the gender pay gap continues, it will take 45 more years — or until 2056 — for women earn as much as men, the study found . That has real consequences for women workers over a lifetime. Women make $434,000 less on average over the course of their career than men, according to a fact sheet from the Democratic Policy and Communications Center.