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Gender Pay Gap Will Be Erased, But It Will Take 118 Years: Report

It will take another 118 years – or until 2133 – to eliminate the gender wage gap worldwide, a new report forecasts.
An employee works in a textile factory in Huaibei in central China's Anhui province on Aug. 28.Chinatopix via AP

Women’s long fight for equal pay and work opportunities is far from over, according to a new report from World Economic Forum that estimates it will take another 118 years – or until 2133 – to close the gender wage gap worldwide.

The date in the Global Gender Gap Report was calculated based on “the rate of change on the economic gender gap and extrapolating it outward,” Saadia Zahidi, a spokesperson for council, told NBC News. “There’s been only a 3 percent closure of the gender gap in the last 10 years.”

The report found that the global average full-time salary for a working woman currently stands at $11,102 a year, just over half of the working man’s average salary of $20,554.

Women’s current earnings are approximately what men made in 2006, when the independent nonprofit group estimated that men made $11,351, and women made $6,117.

“If you (add in) inflation, women still haven’t caught up (to where men were then),” said Zahidi.

An employee works in a textile factory in Huaibei in central China's Anhui province on Aug. 28.Chinatopix via AP

One hundred and forty-five countries were factored into the group’s new research. Those making the greatest progress toward gender pay equality are Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Ireland, it said. The United States checked in at No. 28 on the list.

Experts agree that the gender pay gap is stubborn, but some found fault with the methodology that the authors of the report used to project its eventual disappearance.

“The report is reflecting so many countries and there so many different drivers of wage gap in those countries,” Purvi Sevak, a professor in the Economics Department at Hunter College, told NBC News.

Sevak used Pakistan as an example, noting that many women choose to stay at home rather than work because wages are so poor.

“As labor economists, we believe that when the wage you offer someone is (decent), they’ll want to work,” said Pevak. “If you’re not married you don’t have that choice and then you do suffer these horrible wages.”

Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University, also said the report oversimplifies gender-pay inequality.

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“We have to be very careful about what we measure, and we have to think hard about what we mean by gender equality,” she told NBC News.

Goldin added that factors like distribution rates – or the difference between the highest-paid and lowest-paid in the workforce -- were not considered in the World Economic Forum report, but are crucial to compute overall ratios for countries.

“The U.S has a very wide distribution rate, whereas Sweden has a very narrow distribution rate,” she said, explaining that in a country with a wide distribution rate, the ratio between men and women’s earning may look more disparate. When you take this into consideration, the U.S may not be lagging behind as much as the report suggests, she said.

Sevak also noted emerging positive trends that should speed narrowing of the wage gap, including more women entering engineering — an advanced technical field in great demand – and more men taking paternity leave.

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If the latter trend continues, men could start to experience some of the consequences women face in the workplace when they take maternity leave or extended time off to raise kids or such leaves could lead to fewer negative impacts on one’s career, she said.

Neither Sevak or Goldin would hazard a guess as to when the worldwide gender pay gap would be erased, saying there’s not nearly enough information to make such a call.

“There are observable characteristics around the wage gap but there is also a portion that is inexplicable,” said Sevak. “Who’s to say how it will change over time, whether in U.S. or around the world?”