by Suvarna Dubey (Lawyer, New Delhi)
“We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet. Today women make up of half the U.S. workforce, but the average working women earn only 77% of what the average man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change.” — Beyonce Knowles
In a world where women still must strive hard to be treated equal to men, gender pay gap and unequal pay deplorably continue to exist at all levels. The notion of earning equal remuneration is a mere illusion. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), gender pay gap is the difference in average wages between all women and men who are engaged in paid employment.[i] It stems from the number of men and women employed. On the other hand, unequal pay is a scenario in which women are paid less than men for doing the same amount of work. Over the years, even though the gender pay gap has reduced, we have not been able to eliminate the lack of equality and discrimination in paying women for their work.
Numbers speak louder than words
The Global Wage Report of 2018-19 released by ILO states that women are paid 20% less than men for doing the same work. Inequality in wages differs from country to country. The Republic of Korea shows an astonishing difference of 32% between the wages of men and women. On the other hand, Belgium demonstrates only a 3% difference. The report also mentions that this pay gap is greater in low-income countries as compared to their affluent counterparts.[ii]
As per World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report of 2020, India ranks 112th out of the 153 countries analysed for the report. The economic inequalities are exceptionally high in India, with women getting paid 34% less than men for doing the same quantity of work with same qualifications. India ranks 149th globally in Economic Opportunity and Participation. The Global Gender Gap Report of 2020 iterates that men and women will start receiving equal remuneration only after 257 years.[iii]
The phenomena of gender pay gap and unequal pay
Discrimination against women especially at their places of employment has been observed for centuries now. Since early times, patriarchal systems have ensured that men are perceived as a better fit for any form of employment. As women started raising their voices against constant prejudice, they became exceedingly independent, finding better opportunities to fend for themselves. However, sexism is so deeply engraved in our society that people often perceive women to be less capable than men. Companies and organizations still harbour the opinion that women are not as committed to their work as men and are more inclined towards raising their families. Also, the assumption that women are not “running their household” and therefore, do not need to be paid the same amount as men is incredibly regressive and damaging. It plays into gender stereotypes that are ancient and need to be rooted out anyway. Over time, an array of factors have contributed towards this financial inequality.
When we talk about gender pay gap, occupational and vertical segregation play a fundamental role in distinguishing between men and women. By occupational segregation one means that the number of men is greater in high paying industries while the same stands true for women in low paying industries, and vertical segregation elucidates how there are more men at better paying positions than women. Occupational segregation is often dependent on the barriers to entry into the labour market, work hours, economic activity, and job tenure. Whereas vertical segregation finds itself rooted in gender norms and stereotypes.
According to the Monster Salary Index survey 2019, 60% of women are discriminated against at their workplace.[iv] Where men are paid Rs. 242 per hour, women earn only Rs. 196 in the organised sector in India. Cultural barriers are often cited as the primary reasons for gender pay gap in India. Indian women are also frequently engaged in unpaid work which can be attributed to the significant size of human resource.
Legislative safeguards in force
International Labour Organization’s Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100), also called Convention No. 100, requires member states to promote “equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value.”[v] India has been a member of the ILO Governing Body since 1922 and ratified Convention 100 in 1958.
The Constitution of India in Article 39 (Directive Principles of State Policy) mentions that the state shall work towards ensuring equal pay for equal work and adequate means of livelihood for both men and women. Articles 14, 15 and 16 guarantee equality and protection against discrimination.
The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 was a progressive step taken by our legislators towards removing gender bias and providing equal opportunities and remuneration. Although, despite the laws in place, India still has one of the world’s highest gender pay gap and inequality in pay.
The pathway that leads to development
As of 2020, Iceland is the most gender-equal nation in the world and has closed around 88% of its overall gender gap.[vi] A statistic like this only goes to show that gender equality is a possibility. It has more to do with a person’s perspective than anything else. Today, more and more women are receiving education and are working hard to stand on their own feet.
Some of the measures that can be taken are as follows :
· better enforcement of enacted legislations and severe penalties for violations;
· giving of grants to organizations and companies that promote the growth of women and create support networks and reviews to ensure there is no disparity; and
· gender sensitized education from a young age so children percieve both men and women as equal. Instilling ideas of equality in the younger generation will help secure a better tomorrow.
We live in a strange world where people have confined their ideologies by gender roles. It is high time now that women are seen in the same light as men in all domains of life. Equality in pay is the first step towards progress.
[i] https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_650553.pdf [ii] Ibid. [iii] Global Gender Gap Report 2020 http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2020.pdf [iv] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/gender-pay-gap-still-high-women-in-india-earn-19-pc-less-than-men-report/articleshow/68302223.cms?from=mdr [v] Equal Pay : An Introductory Guide issued by the International Labour Organization https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_216695.pdf [vi] Supra iii