Skip Navigation

Speak to a consultant on +44 (0)20 3457 0894

World Cup: Gender Pay Edition 2





Posted by James Bigus on 26 June 2018

World Cup: Gender Pay Edition 2

HR Reward | Pay Transparency | Reward Consultancy | Pay Fairness | Gender Pay | Gender Pay Gap | Gender Pay Reporting | Pay & Reward | Measuring pay | HR Ethics | Reward

This week we’re continuing our recreation of the World Cup with a gender pay angle. The early stages saw a couple of surprise results, but as you might expect, the competition was largely dominated by European nations with well-established labour equality laws. 

As before, instead of goals we’re using the World Economic Forum 2017 Global Gender Gap report’s Female/Male estimated earned income ratio (referred to henceforth as “wage parity”). 

Who will triumph? Who will crash and burn? There's only one way to find out... 

Quarter Finals 

Moving to the business end of the tournament and the quarter finals… France defeat Spain with a thumping victory of 74% wage parity to the Spaniards’ 63%. Although the Spanish government has recently announced measures to introduce mandatory pay gap audits, research suggests over half of all employers would reject these – so the outlook in Spain is unlikely to change any time soon. 

Switzerland book their place in the semis in a tense match, eventually knocking out Belgium 70% to 65%. For the losers, improving their gender pay gap may prove tricky, as around 55% of all Belgian workers are in trade unions, and an estimated 96% of workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements. This means wage increases are not negotiated individually, but are instead set by collective agreements which apply irrespective of gender. 

Next up is Sweden versus Colombia. Despite a strong effort from the plucky underdogs, it’s the Swedes who ultimately triumph, progressing with 78% wage parity to 68%. Although there are strong laws in Colombia in favour of women’s rights and institutions that support gender equity, these are not being consistently enforced, and hence the gap persists. 

The last quarter final pits Portugal against Iceland. In a real nail-biter, Iceland squeak through to the semis; their wage parity of 73% is just enough to see them through against Portugal’s 72%. Despite their strong showing in this tournament, the gender pay gap in Portugal is believed to be getting worse, having increased by 4.6% between 2011 and 2016. 


It’s a Francophone free-for-all as Switzerland take on France in a tough semi-final. Switzerland eventually make a dignified exit, losing on 70% wage parity to France’s 74%. The UN have applauded Switzerland’s plans to close their gender pay gap, who say the Swiss policy constitutes a significant contribution towards its sustainable development goals. 

The second semi-final is another hard-fought battle - a Scandi smackdown between gender equality powerhouses Iceland and Sweden. We’ve written previously on how forward-thinking Iceland are in terms of gender pay (Iceland – the future of gender pay?) but on this occasion Sweden just pip them to the post, with 78% wage parity to Iceland’s 73%. 


At last, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… two titans of workplace equality go head to head on the world stage. It’s French flair versus Swedish strength, and ultimately the Swedes win the daydefeating France with a wage parity of 78% to 74%.  

Luckily there’s no hard feelings as the real winner is economic gender equality. Both countries have a proud tradition of labour equality laws and plans to reduce existing pay gaps further in the near future. 

In France, gender equality is high on President Macron’s agenda, and plans are afoot to impose sterner sanctions on those employers who fail to disclose a gender equality strategy, with the aim of reducing the gap further by 2022.  

Meanwhile, Swedish businesses with 25 or more employees must establish an equality action plan, and companies with big pay gaps face fines if they fail to take steps to close them. Sweden also has a long history of pay transparency whereby anyone can find out anyone else’s salary simply by making a phone call to the tax authorities. Such measures are undoubtedly instrumental in Sweden’s coronation as 2018 Gender Pay World Cup winners. 

To talk to us about gender pay, or any other aspect of pay and reward, please call 020 3457 0894 or email 

« Back to Insights