New York City
Thomson Reuters Foundation

The wage gap between men and women in the United States failed to budge in 2018, government data showed on Tuesday, sparking calls for action to end pay discrimination.

Women working full-time year-round earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men last year, the US Census Bureau said, meaning the size of the gender pay gap was unchanged statistically from a year earlier.

Woman at NYSE

A trader works inside a booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, on 15th September, 2015. PICTURE: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

"That's an annual wage gap that adds up to more than $10,000 a year, which is really substantial," said Jessica Mason, senior policy analyst at the National Partnership for Women & Families, a Washington-based public policy advocacy group.

"We've seen that number really fail to improve very significantly in the past several years, which is very discouraging," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation."

A gender wage gap exists worldwide, and globally, the World Economic Forum reported on average women earned 63 per cent of what men earned in 2018. 

Explanations range from discrimination and bias to women who leave the paid workforce to care for families, then lag on the wage scale when they return.

The US gap has shrunk since 2007, when women earned 78 cents for every dollar that men were paid, said Trudi Renwick, an assistant division chief at the Census Bureau.

"We have seen improvements over the past decade for sure," she told reporters on a telephone conference call.

But Mason said a more marked change in the wage gap required public policy changes to eliminate wage discrimination, protect pregnant women from losing their jobs and provide families with affordable child care.

"I would not call a few cents...to be an admirable improvement," she said.

Dollarwise, the Census Bureau said women made a median of about $US45,000 compared with about $US55,000 for men in 2018.

The US Congress formally outlawed pay discrimination based on gender in 1963.