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Weekly Bulletin issue no. 1-2, 1998 <sti>Stikktittel

Are women less productive than men?

A report recently published by Statistics Norway concludes that women in industry are on average less productive than men.
Tor Jakob Kletter and Torbjørn Hægeland, the two researchers preparing the report, which came under attack immediately after its release, compared the productivity of various industrial companies employing both male and female workers to varying extents. The analysis covers a very large sample of 7,122 companies in all Norwegian manufacturing industries from 1986 to 1993.

Productivity in a company is defined as the value of production in relation to the number of man-hours worked. Consequently, the figures are not influenced by absence due to sickness, leaves and the like. Comparisons have controls for industrial and regional differences in productivity and several other factors.

The results show that wage differences between the various employee groups reflect distinct differences in productivity. Wage differences between workers with varying levels of education correspond quite well to differences in productivity, except for workers with two or three years of schooling beyond a basic education, in which case wage differences appear to exceed productivity differences. Women in manufacturing have lower wages than men because it is claimed that women have correspondingly lower productivity than men.

The most controversial aspect of the results is connected to the differences between male and female workers. The basis of the analysis, it must be noted, is a comparison of various companies which employ men and women to varying degrees. Comparing value-added per man-hour in the various companies provides a basis for saying something about how productivity differences correspond to the percentages of women and men employed.

On the other hand, the report says nothing about whether lower productivity in enterprises with a higher percentage of women workers is due to the high percentage of women, or whether women have to a greater extent ended up in firms that have lower productivity for other reasons.

One explanation for the productivity differences between men and women may be that women have less access to courses and continuing education. Another may be that women put greater emphasis on other things than pay, for instance working hours or having a short distance to work.


Do Higher Wages Wages Reflect Higher Productivity? Education, Gender and Experience Premiums in a Matched Plant-Worker Data Set.
The report is published in the Discussion Papers series and is written in English. More information: Tor Jakob Klette, +47 21 09 48 62, e-mail: tjk@ssb.no or Torbjørn Hægeland, tel. +47 21 09 49 21, e-mail: thd@ssb.no.

Weekly Bulletin issue no. 1-2, 1998