The Equal Pay Act 1970 is an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament which prohibits any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. It was passed by Parliament in the aftermath of the 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike and came into force on 29 December 1975. The term pay is interpreted in a broad sense to include, on top of wages, things like holidays, pension rights, company perks and some kinds of bonuses. The legislation has been amended on a number of recent occasions to incorporate a simplified approach under European Union law that is common to all member states.
Equal pay for women is an issue regarding pay inequality between men and women. It is often introduced into domestic politics in many first world countries as an economic problem that needs governmental intervention via regulation. The Equal Remuneration Convention requires its over 160 states parties to have equal pay for men and women. A report commissioned by the International Trade Union Confederation in 2008 shows that, based on their survey of 63 countries, there is a significant gender pay gap of 15. 6 %.
Excluding Bahrain, where a positive gap of 40% is shown (due possibly to very low female participation in paid employment), the global figure is 16. 5%. Women who are engaged in work in the informal economy have not been included in these figures. Overall, throughout the world, the figures for the gender pay gap range from 13% to 23%. The report found that women are often educated equally high as men, or to a higher level but "higher education of women does not necessarily lead to a smaller pay gap, however, in some cases the gap actually increases with the level of education obtained".
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The report also argues that this global gender pay gap is not due to lack of training or expertise on the part of women since "the pay gap in the European Union member states increases with age, years of service and education".
- Under the Equality Act 2010, employers can no longer use secrecy clauses to prevent employees from discussing pay rates.
- According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, the median gender pay gap for full-time workers in the private sector is 20. %.
- Employers can identify any pay gap via pay audits and job evaluations.
- Issues making it difficult for women to get to top jobs should be tackled. Yahoo answers; assume you employ 7 women and 7 men, all the same age, and you pay them all the same wage for the same job.. then 3 of the women tell you that they want to leave, to have a child.. you have to pay them "maternity leave" and hold their job open, in case they want to return, after they have had their child.. t costs you a fortune to employ 3 other people, and the pregnant women as well.. so, do you pay them the same as a man.. who will not cost you the same even if their wife gets pregnant.. or do you pay the men more, because they will not leave.. or do you just employ men, and then you do not have the problem in the first place!
A comparatively recent and very thorough study, using data from the British Household Panel Survey (a large up-to-date survey, that that looks at how people’s lives change over time) explained the gap in terms of four explanations:
- percent of the gender pay gap could be explained by gender differences in lifetime working patterns, including the fact that women, on average, spend less of their careers than men in full-time jobs, more in part-time jobs and have more interruptions to their careers for childcare and other family responsibilities. 18 percent is caused by labour market rigidities, including gender segregation and the fact that women are more likely work for small firms and less likely to work in unionised firms.
- percent is caused by direct discrimination and women and men’s different career preferences and motives (some of which are in turn the result of discrimination).
- percent is the result of the fact that older women had poorer educational attainment.
Another way of explaining the gaps is to analyse the problem in terms of three broad themes
- Under-valuing of women’s work
- An employment penalty for mothers Gender
There are several dimensions to the problem of the wage gap: First, there is the classic case of a man and a woman doing exactly the same job (whether in a factory or on the stock market floor), but the woman being paid less for it. This used to be a common problem, especially in Western Europe, and many countries have outlawed this type of wage discrimination – there even exists an ILO Convention designed to eliminate it21, dating back to 1951, as well as a 1975 European Council Directive.
But, as several recent studies conclude, even this type of classic wage discrimination persists in many countries, which prompted the European Commission to issue a (non-binding) “Code of Practice on the implementation of equal pay for work of equal value of women and men” as recently as 199623. For example, a Eurostat study of 2003 showed that the average earnings of women in full-time employment in the EU (at that time, of 15 member states) stood at only 70-90% of those of men.
Similarly, the 2004 UNIFEM study I mentioned in the previous chapter shows that the annual average earnings of women in the year 2000 stood at 73. 28% of men’s in the Czech Republic, 79. 96% in Poland, 75. 01% in Slovakia and 88. 82% in Slovenia24. 18. Second, women are often paid less than men for work of equal value. This type of discrimination is usually based on “horizontal occupational segregation by sex”. For example, the level of education and experience required to work in a certain job might be the same, but women are paid less (chauffeurs/taxi drivers are usually paid more than cleaners or receptionists). In some countries, wage levels have gone down in certain professions when more and more women enter them (for example, doctors and teachers in Central and Eastern Europe). Mrs Leitao relating to the average salary of women working full time compared with that of men in the same circumstances show that, in the 18 countries covered by a recent European survey, the average difference, to women's disadvantage, is till approximately 20%, with wage discrimination in the strict sense being estimated at 15%25.
Various other international studies have shown that around one-third of the female-male pay differential is due to occupational segregation by sex, and that about 10 to 30% of the gender pay gap remains “unexplained” – i. e. due to discrimination26. 19. In the Central and Eastern European countries, certain professions have “gained” the connotation of being feminized as these professions (the above mentioned teachers, nurses etc. are dominated by women. Nevertheless, even these professions are highly segregated – although women account for more than 70% of all teachers, there is proportionally a larger number of men school directors. This is very often the result of a “reverse action”, when the need for more men in the profession is felt, and thus their pay-rise and promotion is faster. When we compare it to the situation in politics, where there are more men than women, the society does not feel any similar need. 20.
Third, women earn less, on average, than men in their lifetime (and thus also receive smaller pensions when they retire). In addition to the two factors mentioned above, there are several other possible explanations for this phenomenon: Women work less during their lifetime (calculating periods of maternity leave and part-time work) – and women have less of a career, as they are often discriminated against when it comes to promotions to higher-earning posts27: this is usually called “vertical occupational segregation by sex”.
As the ILO points out: “Women’s lower educational attainments and intermittent career paths are not, contrary to conventional belief, the main reason for gender differentials in pay. Other factors, such as occupational segregation, biased pay structures and job classification systems, and decentralized or weak collective bargaining, appear to be more important determinants of inequalities in pay”.
Apart from women’s lower pensions, it is important to see the tight interrelation of female length of life and feminization of poverty: since women live longer, for some period of their life, they share their pension with their partner; however, when he dies, they are left to live on their pension which is usually much lower than their living standards. One example connected to women’s pensions is pension insurance – as women live longer and although they generally earn less, to attain a final sum similar to men they are expected to pay higher sums for their monthly pension insurance.
Furthermore, economic recessions often affect women more than men as far as unemployment is concerned (many companies unfortunately still believe that it is more important to keep a male “breadwinner” in employment), and women’s needs or the determination to keep on working therefore leads them to accept levels of pay not consonant with the principles of equality and fairness or dissuades them from reporting cases of discrimination for fear of losing their jobs.
This is why, as Mrs Leitao correctly pointed out, all those involved in combating wage discrimination (bodies promoting equality, labour inspectorates, courts, trade unions, NGOs etc) should step up their capacity to intervene to try and close the wage gap. This issue can be illustrated with an example common to all European countries: when textile companies, which employ mostly women earning very low salaries, were threatened with closure, no major discussions were held about unemployment issues. But as soon as coal and other mines, where male “breadwinners” worked, were being closed down, those discussions were launched widely.
There are a number of barriers to women’s career development:
- lack of management or line experience;
- lack of mentoring and role models for women at the highest levels;
- exclusion from informal networks and channels of communication (the “old boys network” is apparently still going strong in many countries);
- stereotyping and preconceptions of women’s roles and abilities, commitment and leadership style;
- sexual and moral harassment, bullying and mobbing;
- unfriendly corporate culture.
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