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Guess which country has the largest wage gap?

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., left, urged the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act earlier this fall to help close the gender wage gap. It failed to gain enough votes.
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Ladies, don't celebrate that promotion or raise just yet. Working women in the United States still face a bigger wage gap than those in other countries.

Of 38 countries assessed in the International Labour Organization's Global Wage Report 2014/15, released Friday, Americans had the widest reported total gap, at 36 percent. That's a bigger paycheck bite than the Census Bureau's most recent estimate, which has women earning 78 cents for every dollar men earned. In comparison, the ILO report's front-runner, Sweden, has a pay gap of just 4 percent. (See chart below for a comparison of the gaps in developed countries.)

There's a lot of nuance in those numbers, though. Census Bureau figures focus on men and women working full-time. "In other countries, the part-time workers, the hourly wages are more equal than they are here," said Jeff Hayes, a study director for the Institute for Women's Policy Research. That could account for some of the ILO's wider gap.

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Researchers adjusted some of the wage gap to account for differences in education and other "explainable" qualification disparities. The "unexplained" portion remaining, they wrote, can suggest discrimination. According to the report, "If this 'unexplained' wage penalty were erased, the gap would actually be reversed in nearly half of the 38 countries, and women would earn more than men based on work-related characteristics." (The U.S. would still rank at the bottom, however.)

Front-runner Sweden, for example, could see women earning a 13 percent premium. But in the U.S., the explained wage gap still has women earning 28 percent less.

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That doesn't mean it's time to move to Europe, though. Differences in pay tend to be more prevalent among higher earners, said Hayes. "At the low end, you get some compression," he said, with minimum-wage laws providing a floor. "At the high end, things can go sky high," so differences can be more pronounced—both in the U.S. and in other countries.

Average wage gaps around the world

Source: International Labour Organization Global Wage Report 2014/15

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