Has the gender pay gap decreased – or is that just what we'd like to think?

More than 70 percent of people in North American and Europe believe men and women are already being paid equally for equal work.

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/File
Patricia Arquette arrives at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles in February. The Oscar-winning actress used her acceptance speech to make a plea for equal pay for equal work for women. California's new pay law, the toughest in the nation, took effect Jan. 1.

Nearly three-quarters of employed adults (74 percent) in seven key countries believe men and women are being paid equally for equal work, according to a study by employment service Glassdoor.

Glassdoor, in partnership with Harris Poll, probed 8,254 respondents, split statistically equally between men and women, in the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

In the US, 70 percent of people surveyed said they believe men and women are already being paid equally by their employer, despite government reports indicating that women on average are paid 23 cents less than men.

About 40 percent of women were aware of the ongoing pay disparity, compared to 22 percent of male respondents.

A 2014 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research suggests that the wage gap is not likely to close until 2058.

Attempts to pass the US Paycheck Fairness Act, which seeks to address America's gender pay gap, have failed over the past several years in Congress.

Some states, such as California, have taken measures to address the gender gap issue. California’s Equal Pay Act, which took effect last month, aims to ensure employers aren't discriminatory by requiring them to prove their compensation practices for similar roles are fair, Fast Company reported.

Adding to the equation are economists who argue that the current gender wage gap issue doesn’t make economic sense.

"The first problem with the gender wage gap idea is how it’s measured," writes Abigail Hall, a research fellow at the Independent Institute and assistant professor of economics at the University of Tampa, in a blog post. "When discussing the 'gap,' people often bring out the statistic that a woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.”

“But this is not a fair comparison and the statistic is grossly misleading," she adds. "The 77 cents per dollar metric is a comparison of gross income. That is, it compares the income of all men to the income of all women, without regard for other factors. It’s literally like matching up a waitress with a high school degree and a CEO with two Master’s degrees and saying, 'ah-ha! Their pay is unequal! Look at that waitress-CEO wage gap!' "

Ms. Hall tells The Christian Science Monitor in an email that she's not sure that people are catching up with this economic way of thinking.

"If we look at these finding within the context of other surveys, it appears that many individuals of various demographics still believe in the gap," she says in the email. "One recent Deloitte study, for example, found nearly half of millennial women believe they are being overlooked for promotions and leadership positions.”

“Moreover, many people continue to call for additional rules and regulations to fix these supposed problems,” she says, alluding to government measures such as the California’s Equal Pay Act that took effect last month. “This suggests that individuals don’t really understand the underlying economics of employment and gender. If they did, I have serious doubts they’d advocate such policies.”

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