Persistent gender wage gaps in Switzerland

In his thesis, Dr Patrick McDonald observed that for men, marriage is associated with a wage premium, while for women, having children is associated with a wage penalty, especially for young mothers.
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On July 6, 2020, Patrick McDonald was awarded the title of Doctor of Social Sciences following the defence of his thesis entitled “Family and employment: The impact of marriage and children on labour market outcomes”. This work shows the impact of marriage and children on wages: for men, marriage is synonymous with a bonus, while for women, having children is linked to a wage penalty.

With this thesis, the author presents relevant results: for men, marriage rhymes with wage premium, largely because marriage selects the most productive men. For women, having children is associated with a wage penalty, which is influenced by employer discrimination, especially among young mothers. This discrimination against women comes from all types of recruiters, regardless of their gender or family situation, the only exception being that recruiters without children tend to penalize more heavily.

The thesis also focused on salary expectations; Dr McDonald shows that gender gaps are due in particular to different types of work and family situations. The author thus proves that gender wage differentials are persistent in the Swiss labour market. They vary from profession to profession but are always present.

For his research, the doctoral candidate used data from a LIVES survey (the LIVES-JOBVUL factorial survey) as a source of empirical analysis. This study surveyed Swiss employers and recruiters on a wide range of topics. It is therefore thanks to this experimental approach that Dr McDonald was able to analyse the impact of employer discrimination on wages. This is even more interesting since this is often theorised but rarely studied empirically.

LIVES offers a doctoral programme which is aimed primarily at doctoral candidates in the social sciences and psychology who integrate a life-course perspective into their work. This program aims to promote courses that lead to quality doctorates within a reasonable time frame as well as professional integration, particularly in academic careers.