Gender gaps in the labour market narrowed slightly last year, mainly due to an increase in female labour force participation and a slight fall in unemployment.
However, the change was not enough to recover the pre-pandemic peak, according to the PwC Women in Work Index, which looks at the labour market in 33 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
PwC's Women in Work Index increased last year by 1,1 points to 65,5 points, after the female labour force participation rate increased by 1,3 percentage points to 70,8% and the unemployment rate decreased by 0,3 percentage points to 6,4%.
However, the report notes that a similar improvement was recorded in the male employment rate, suggesting that, rather than any move towards gender equality, the rise in the index was a sign of positive macroeconomic developments and a post-pandemic labour market recovery.
Luxembourg tops the list of countries with the highest labour market progress for women, followed by New Zealand and Slovenia.
In contrast, the gender pay gap has increased by 0,6 percentage points to 13,8% and eight countries analysed in the Index now have higher pay gaps than before the pandemic, namely Slovenia, New Zealand, Estonia, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Israel and Switzerland.
"The 'maternity penalty' is now the most important factor driving the gender pay gap. At the current rate, it will take more than half a century to close the gender pay gap.
According to OECD data, there is a 60% drop in income for mothers compared to fathers in the first 10 years after the birth of their first child (measured in six OECD countries) and, more broadly, in women's lower pension and retirement savings balances at the end of their working lives.
"Employers should do all they can to build a balanced workplace culture where women feel as empowered as men, and where women are fairly rewarded and experience autonomy and a sense of belonging at work. This will have the dual benefit of building trust across the organisation and supporting women's advancement," said Bob Moritz, PwC Global Chairman.
PwC's Global Empowerment Index shows that the four most important workplace value drivers for women are also the four most important factors women consider when deciding to make career changes, namely fair pay (72%), job fulfillment (69%), a workplace where they can truly be themselves (67%) and a team that cares about their wellbeing (61%).
According to the PwC analysis, effective policy actions are needed to achieve greater gender equality globally, such as the development of affordable childcare to help reduce pressure on mothers and families.