What’s a pay gap?

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Pay ranges vary based on job type, location, company finances, and other factors. Union work guarantees a certain pay range, while employers need to offer an attractive salary to attract skilled workers. Some employers may set their own pay scale, and not all companies give raises.

Pay range typically means high to low or minimum to maximum pay for a given type of work. These ranges can be based on a variety of factors which may include the type of job, consideration of the regional and national average compensation for that job, the specific region in which the job is being offered, company finances and other resources. Not all salaries fall into any kind of average range, and some companies set their ranges above or below average.

When people look for work, they might research the expected salary range for their job, but this can really depend on the area a person lives in. Areas with a lower cost of living often offer jobs at the lower end of an expected salary range. The highest wages tend to be earned in urban areas where the cost of living is high. Someone researching in a suburban area can expect to earn salaries in the middle pay ranges, but probably could not expect to earn the highest salary without years of service to a company or employer.

One thing that can guarantee a certain salary range is union work. Because unions negotiate wages with employers, they have established pay ranges that may provide workers with little more protection than non-union jobs.

An employer is not obligated to pay more than the state or federal minimum wage, or to provide wage increases. Many of them do, but union involvement can provide certain protections not just with regard to the pay rate, but when raises should be given.

Most employers know that they will have a hard time attracting workers unless they offer a reasonable salary range. It gets progressively more difficult to hire a company when skilled workers are needed. Employers need to make the salary range attractive and in line with regional averages to get highly skilled workers. Most employers will be very upfront about this range and exactly how many years of experience they expect workers to have to be paid specific amounts. Companies generally do not consider paying newly hired employees above the range, although an extremely skilled worker may occasionally negotiate a higher salary.

A pay range is not necessarily defined in any form of regional average. For unskilled and non-union jobs, employers can simply set their own scale, which may or may not be fair given the work involved. Furthermore, a scale does not necessarily imply that a raise is given. While it would seem that workers’ wages would rise given the variety of companies, there are many companies that rarely give raises or freeze raises during financially difficult times, keeping wages at the bottom of the pay range. Unless there are guaranteed pay increases, employees may remain at the same pay level for years.

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