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A woman employee of the Swiss Federal Railways checks a bogie (in new window)

A woman employee of the Swiss Federal Railways checks a bogie. The SBB has the stated aim of increasing the number of women it employs, including in technical jobs. The SBB employed its first woman engine driver in 1991. In 2006 the figure had climbed to about 30, one per cent of the total, but the proportion is set to rise.© Foto SBB

There are large differences between men and women in the labour market. The number of working women increased in the 1990s; nevertheless in 2006 74.6% of women over 15 were employed or looking for a job. The figure for men was 87.5%. In both cases this was well above the European average.

The wage gap

Income is dependent on vocational training, professional status and professional experience. Women often have a lower professional status and work in low paid jobs. In 2002 11% of women in full-time work earned less than 3000 francs per month, while only 2% of men had a similarly low wage.

Far more women than men work part time. In 2006 nearly 58% of working women were employed part time, while the figure for men was just over 11%.

Since 1998 the gap in pay between men and women in similar work has remained more or less constant, standing at about 21% in the private sector and 10% in the public sector. These pay differentials are found irrespective of the level of qualification or of management. Figures for 2002 showed women with university degrees and occupying higher managerial positions earned 29.8% less than their male counterparts.

Although the difference can to some extent be explained by the fact that many women take time out of their career to care for children and thus have gained less experience than their male counterparts, research indicates that part of the difference arises from the fact that men and women are not treated equally.

Research also shows that many enterprises are unaware of the fact that they do not pay equal salaries for equal work.

"[From the 1920s] male workers [in the Tobler factory] were able to take up specialist jobs, and became less easy to get rid of. The majority of women, on the other hand, remained until the 1960s in the packing section, where they hand wrapped the chocolates in silver paper and put them in boxes. The difference between men's work and women's work lay not only in the wages and the job interest, but also in the fact that the men mostly had permanent jobs, while many of the women were taken on only temporarily from autumn to spring to cover the Christmas and Easter demand... From the end of the 1960s as a result of increasing automation and a reduction in the range of products, most of them were rationalised out of employment."

Chocolat Tobler: a pamphlet written for an exhibition on the history of the Tobler factory, Bern 2001

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