Vocational education, labour market and gender 1An important area of ​​our activities is to conduct a research based on the interviews to understand the problem and on the statistical data to estimate its scale. The research work focused on the economic situation of various groups of women experiencing discrimination on the labor market. The results of the research were the starting point for developing an advocacy strategy for improving the status of women.

Analyzing the statistical data on the impact of introducing a free market economy on the situation of women in 2003 we observed  a deterioration of the situation of women in the labor market (a significant increase in unemployment (over 20%)), a drastic deepening of the gap between different groups of women and elimination of the poorest with the lowest education from the labor market. That is why our research focused on those groups that lost the most in political and economic transformation. The research focused on the working conditions of women in the clothing industry (2005), supermarkets (2008), and the electronics industry (2009). In 2015, we turned to the issue of vocational education and the labor market for women with vocational education. We examined the barriers to women’s access to professions and analyzed the statistical data on disproportions between women’s and men’s earnings. We also carried out an analysis regarding the horizontal segregation of women and men in the labor market and its’ consequences for women (2017).


Get to know about the researches carried out by KARAT:


Horizontal segregation of women and men in the labor market.

Analysis of statistical data. 


The horizontal segregation by gender (division into the feminised and masculine occupations) has a negative impact on the situation of women in the labor market, especially in case of ​​remuneration. Women clearly dominate in occupations related to services, sales, education, social assistance, health care and administrative services. Men predominate in occupations related to construction, industry, telecommunications and information, machinery and equipment operation and transport.

The average wage of women is lower than for men in almost all occupations and sectors of the economy. The largest, over 30% difference in salaries of men and women occurs in a group of the industrial workers and craftsmen, where women account for less than 12% of employees. The heavily feminized professions are at the same time the lowest paid ones, e.g hairdressers, beauticians, waitresses, female clothing workers, dietitians, medical and pharmaceutical technicians. Earnings of women in the most feminised sectors of economy – healthcare, social assistance and education, where most employers have a university degree, are not higher then the average national salary. Although in masculine occupations there are often significant wage disparities between women and men, women’s earnings are higher here than in feminised occupations.

In 2015, the most vacancies were recorded in two strongly masculinised groups: Industrial workers and craftsmen (15,1 thousand places) and Operators and assemblers of machines and equipment (11,2 thousand places). In the sectors of the economy, the largest number of vacancies occurred in the masculinised sector of industrial processing, and the least in the feminised sectors – other service activity, healthcare and social assistance, and education.

From the perspective of economic independence and availability of work, it seems reasonable for girls to choose to learn the mechanics and machines operating in vocational schools, and avoid the selling and personal services classes as  these professions are poorly paid and with high unemployment rate. This is particularly important when one takes into account the fact that the choice of a basic vocational school by girls is very often related to economic coercion (the need to take up work as soon as possible after graduating from grammar school).

More about the problem of horizontal segregation you will find in the analysis (only in Polish): Segregacja pozioma kobiet i mężczyzn na rynku pracy. Przedstawienie zjawiska na podstawie danych statystycznych oraz badań Koalicji Karat (2017)


Vocational education and the labor market for women. 

The research conducted by KARAT on women aged 20-34 in Kielce, Olsztyn, Siedlce and Warsaw and the analysis of statistical data on education.


The research includes a unique gender analysis of vocational education and the labor market showing numerous barriers for women in access to professions.

Vocational education was chosen by over half of the youth (54%): 32% junior high school students  chose the basic vocational schools and 68% chose the secondary vocational schools (2013/2014). The educational choices of girls and boys differ a lot. 66% of boys choose to learn a profession in the vocational schools, and 56.5% of girls choose the general educationa in the high schools. In the context of the current demand for certain occupations on the labor market, the adopted model of education, especially the choice of girls to go to the high schools , should be considered problematic. Graduating from a high school a girl has a much lower chances of finding a job ( a working activity by almost 8 percentage points lower) than if she graduates from  a vocational school.

The largest occupational segregation occurs in basic vocational education. Not only is it dominated by boys (72%) but there is also a clear gender division in particular fields of study, for example, only 0.4% of girls studies the architecture and construction.  The main barrier in girls’ taking up education in “male” professions is the fear of losing femininity and the consequences of this fact. There is also a widespread belief that it will be difficult for a woman trained in a traditionally man’s profession  to find a job. This was confirmed in the interviews of women with technical education.

In the labor market, the situation of women with basic vocational education is much more difficult than the men with this level of education. It is harder for the women to find a job in a professions they were trained with a decent salary. There is many more job offers in professions performed by men and they are better paid. Worse situation of women also results from the fact that they are perceived through the prism of a motherhood – as mothers of small children or potential mothers – and their employment is considered to be risky.

The next factors determining the situation of women in the labor market and affecting their low self-esteem are the stereotypical image of women with basic vocational education, as not ambitious, from poor families and who do not want to learn. This harmful stereotype concerns women to a greater extent than men whose professions enjoy greater social prestige.

It is therefore necessary to carry out a series of social campaigns to change the society’s traditional belief about the occupations appropriate for women and those good for men. It would make it easier for girls to undertake education in male professions.

You can find more about this problem in our report “Vocational Schools and the Laboru Market for Women with Basic Vocational Education”


Pay gap between women and men with vocational education. Analysis of statistical data of the labor market and wage disparities. Opinions of women surveyed in 2015.


The relatively highest disproportion between women’s and men’s earnings is observed in a group of employees with basic vocational education and the pay gap is over 30%. To estimate how serious is the problem of inequalities between women and men in labor market in Poland Karat analyzed  the statistical data on the working activity of women and men with basic vocational education (by age, economic sector and form of employment) as well as the  wage disparities between them.

Over the years 2010-2015 the employment rate of women improved but it does not affect women with the basic vocational education. The employment rates for women in total increased by 2 percentage points, but the same rates for women who graduated from the vocational schools decreased by 1 percentage point. When it comes to the structure of the employed by sex and education level, among the total employed, women account for 45% and men 55%. However, the women with vocational education account for only 31.4% while the men with that level of education for 68.6%. Most of the employed women have a university degree – 41,5% (the women with basic vocational education 18%), but most of the employed men graduated from the basic vocational schools – 32.2% (the men with higher education 26%).

The fact that the women dominate among the employed with higher education  (women 56.6% and men 43.4%) does not mean that they earn more then the men.  The women earn less than men irrespective of their education, sector of economy or industry. The stereotypical perception of the roles of men and women on the labor market and in society affects their choices of professions. The cultural conditions make the “men’s professions” better paid then professions traditionally chosen by women.

As there are  significant differences in the remuneration of women and men with basic vocational education it is justified to promote the campaigns to overcome the stereotypes about the professions good for men and those good for women and to encourage the girls to choose educational paths  in better-paid professions.

You can find more about this in our report “Pay gap between women and men with basic vocational education”.


Get to know the other Karat’s publications that present the results of research on the situation of women in the labor market: