Helsinki (07.06.1998 - Juhani Artto) According to a new study, women's wages and salaries in the engineering industries are only 82 per cent of those of men. This figure comes as no surprise to experts, since roughly similar differences have previously been recorded in several industries in Finland and in other economically developed countries.

The study was conducted by Juhana Vartiainen, a researcher at the Labour Institute for Economic Research ( The statistical material, which Vartiainen describes as being of high quality, covers the years from 1990 to 1995.

But what are the reasons for this pay differential?

The study reveals that about two thirds of the wage and salary difference is due to the fact that jobs typically done by women are less complex and are categorised as less demanding than those mainly done by men. The remaining third seems to result from unequal treatment of women and men.

This conclusion leads to another question. Are the abilities of female employees underused compared to those of men?

With information about the same employees over a longer period, Vartiainen had a real opportunity to provide a reliable answer to this question. This made it possible to measure how the mobility of women and men affects their respective productivity.

An analysis of the available material shows that as work becomes more demanding, the productivity of women clearly rises more than that of men. This means that women have a great deal of unused capacity and skills, while men work closer to the upper limits of their competence.

According to an Institute press release, the researcher's approach and results are a novelty in this field of research.

Economists speculate that the fear of discontinuous careers can be a reason for disfavouring women in working life. If women leave their jobs more often than men - for example to take parental leave - then training women for more demanding work is an uncertain investment for the employer.

However, this research result suggests a different conclusion. Encouraging and helping women to move into more demanding jobs could both increase their earnings and improve the overall productivity of industry.

"This would be a much more effective way of promoting equality between men and women than the special pay increases awarded to lower income employees in the recent comprehensive incomes policy agreements", the Labour Institute for Economic Research states in its press release.