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Half a century of female wage disadvantage: an analysis of Denmark’s public wage hierarchy in 1969 and today

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  • Astrid Elkjær Sørensen
  • Stinne Skriver Jørgensen, Danish Institute for Human Rights
  • ,
  • Maja Meiland Hansen, Danish Institute for Human Rights

In June 1969, the Danish parliament passed an extensive law complex, known as the Public Servant Reform of 1969. An important part of the reform was a new wage and classification system into which all public employees were placed. In newer Danish research on the gender wage gap, it is a hypothesis that the reform created a wage hierarchy in the public sector which in general was unfavourable to female-dominated professions, and that this hierarchy largely has persisted to the present due to mechanisms in the collective bargaining system. In our article, we test this hypothesis using graphical analysis and descriptive statistics. Our study supports the existing hypothesis about a gender biased wage hierarchy in 1969. We find that there is a close coherence between the wage hierarchy in 1969 and the wage hierarchy in 2019. However, our analysis also shows how education level explains even less of the traditional female dominated professions’ position in the wage hierarchy in 2019 compared with 1969, and that this is still the case when we take absence patterns and family-friendly benefits into account. That points toward a wage system, which seems unable to adjust to changes in an established profession’s profile.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Economic History Review
Pages (from-to)195-215
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Research areas

  • Gender wage gap, equal pay, labour market, the Public Servant Reform of 1969, welfare state

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