The gender pay gap around the world: what can your organisation learn from afar?

Global insight

There is no country in the world where women collectively earn the same as men. In 2015, the OECD reported New Zealand’s gap at 5.6%, making it the world’s lowest. The country’s own Ministry of Women uses a different measure and records the gap at 12%.

Sources: OECD (2015); New Zealand Ministry of Women (2016)

Following new government regulations requiring large organisations to report their gender pay gaps, a spotlight has been shone on the UK’s salary disparity between working men and women.

As the country’s employers prepare to follow the lead of those who’ve already published ahead of deadline, we present a scan of the globe to help you understand how your own business’s pay gap holds up against others, and the initiatives you could employ to begin tackling the issue.



New Zealand


Headline actions New Zealand employers are being urged by government to put into practice:

  1. Lead from the top
  2. Make a plan
  3. Analyse your data
  4. Be aware of bias
  5. Redesign your talent management process
  6. Maximise female talent
  7. Normalise flexible work and parental leave for men and women.

New Zealand’s gender pay gap progress has stalled over recent years, but rather than take a legislative approach to solving the issue, the women’s ministry is working with organisations to identify problems and create solutions. The result is a voluntary seven-point strategy.


  • Leaders are urged to step out of “the leadership shadow”, to become “powerful drivers of change”, mindful of what they “say, do, measure and prioritise”.[1]
  • Employers are also being urged to put hiring managers through unconscious bias training, and to take steps to normalise flexible working policies for both men and women.[2]





The government has warned that at current rates of progress it could take another 50 years to close the country’s gender pay gap, which currently sits at 16.2%. “If true, this means a young woman entering the workforce today could retire before earning the same amount of money as a male colleague,” reports ABC.[3]


  • An insurance firm has responded to the challenge to accelerate gender parity with one particular innovative measure: offering female customers a 16.2% discount on one of its policies. “As a company with a 50/50 split of male and female employees this kind of conversations around gender equality regularly come up and we wanted to find a way to address them,” said Michelle Legge of insurance company Travel With Jane. “By offering a discount of 16.2% on all travel insurance policies, we aim to assist women financially, as well as raise awareness and encourage corporate accountability here, and globally."





With its focus on work-life balance and shared parental leave, Sweden is regularly held up as an example for other nations to follow when it comes to gender equality. And though the country has a gender pay gap (13.2% in 2017), Sweden has never finished lower than fourth in the Global Gender Gap Report published annually since 2006 by the World Economic Forum.


  • Recent years have seen the country’s forestry commission introduce a national gender equality strategy to specifically tackle pay disparity in this sector by encouraging more young women into and up through the industry. The campaign targets female entrepreneurs and encourages equal opportunities in running and owning forests—a line of work typically seen as the domain of men. And there’s strong evidence that such concerted efforts have impact: Expert Market recently found that women aged under 25, working part time as skilled manual workers are those on the fastest track to salary parity, the gap being predicted to close for that specific group by 2025.[4]

It's possible to live a gender-equal life in sweden, but we don't do it because of traditions. As a man you're supposed to be the one who works and brings home the meat to the cave. It's about stereotypes and privileges that will take time to break down.

Amanda lundeteg, ceo of not-for-profit allbright, campaigners for workplace equality in sweden.[5]

  • “It is one of the last taboos,” claims a Financial Times report. “You can swear on television and breastfeed in public, but you cannot talk about how much you earn.” That might be the British way, but that’s not the case in Sweden, where, thanks to a practice dating back to the 18th century, which requires that all tax returns are published, anyone is able to look up what their neighbour, colleague or friend earns. Commentators note that in Sweden, less prestige is attached to higher wages. However, there is also evidence that openness around salaries is linked to stronger employee engagement: 2015 research into the attitudes of 70,000 employees by US organisation PayScale found that the more people know about why they earn what they do, and how their income relates to their peers, the less likely they are to chase higher-paying roles at competitor organisations.[6]





Despite its position as world leader when it comes to paid paternity leave (30.4 weeks at full salary), Japan fairs poorly on virtually all other measures of gender equality. Its pay gap sits at 25.9%, owing largely to a poor representation of women in managerial roles (only 12.5% of leadership positions are occupied by Japanese females).[7]

Such low wages, combined with high childcare costs and workplace cultures that do not support female progression are some of the factors behind a huge dropout rate: six out of ten working Japanese women leave their jobs after having their first child.[8]

Despite this, some Japanese companies are breaking out of the mould. One such, Phillip Morris Japan Ltd, the Japanese unit of the US tobacco giant, has been recognised by the non-profit Equal-Salary, making it the first organisation outside Switzerland to be honoured with the title of one of the most female-friendly companies in the world.


  • The business—whose wage gap sits at less than 5%—has a long commitment to equal pay, and grounds its policy firmly in economic terms: “The environment changes dramatically in our industry and we need to continuously come up with good and innovative product ideas to survive in the market. Diversity, therefore, is a fundamental factor that contributes to coming up with new ideas,” says HR Director, Sachiko Okamoto.[9]
  • The organisation constantly monitors and analyses its gender stats to understand how it can accelerate its gender parity, and, as a result, is now making a concerted effort to attract more women into its male-dominant sales division. gender pay gap portal.


To discover how everywoman can help your UK business prepare its gender pay gap report ahead of the April 2018 deadline, visit our dedicated gender pay gap portal.

[1] Chief Executive Women and Male Champions Of Change. It starts with us: The leadership shadow. (March 2014). 

[2] Ministry For Women. What can employers do? (February 2017). 

[3] H. Belot. (July 2017). Gender pay gap: Australian women could be paid less than men for another 50 years. ABC. 

[4] L. Roden. Study predicts the Swedish women poised to close gender pay gap first. The Local. (January 2017). 

[5] M. Savage. Why Swedish workplaces aren’t as equal as you think. BBC. (May 2013). 

[6] K. Marçal. Sweden shows that pay transparency works. Financial Times. (July 2017). 

[7] N. Thirani Bagri. Japan leads the world in paid paternity leave but fails on nearly every other measure of workplace gender equality. Quartz. (March 2017). 

[8] Nikkei Asia Review. Japan's gender wage gap persists despite progress. (February 2017.) 

[9] Japan Times. Improved innovation through gender equality. (March 2017.)