Women across the world continues to earn less despite decades of activism, and dozens of laws on equal pay, the United Nations said on the International Equal Pay Day that falls on September 18.
The UN said that women still earned less than 80 cents for every dollar men do. This is lower for women with children, women of colour, women refugees and migrants and women with disabilities.
In a message on the day, Un Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that women’s unequal status at work feeds inequality in other areas of their lives. “Women’s jobs are less likely to come with benefits like health insurance and paid time off. Even when women are entitled to a pension, lower salaries mean lower payments in their old age,” he said.
Stating that laws on equal pay have failed to address the problem, the UN Chief called for greater effort to find solutions.
He also said “we need to ask why women are relegated to lower-paid work; why professions that are female-dominated have lower salaries – including jobs in the care sector; why so many women work part-time; why women see their wages decrease with motherhood while men with children often enjoy a salary boost; and why women hit a ceiling in higher-earning professions.”
End harmful gender stereotypes
In the message, the UN Chief underlined the need to end harmful gender stereotypes and remove institutional barriers. He talked of sharing family responsibilities equally. He stressed the need to recognize, redistribute and value the unpaid care work that was disproportionately done by women.
Mentioning that the gender pay gap worsened with Covid-19 pandemic, he said taht this was because most of the work in service, hospitality and informal sectors which have been hardest hit.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exploited and exposed inequalities of all kinds, including gender inequality. As we invest in recovery, we must take the opportunity to end pay discrimination against women,” he said.
“Equal pay is essential not only for women, but to build a world of dignity and justice for all,” he stressed.
Unequal pay a stubborn and universal problem
The UN Women said that there was only a slow progress in bridging the gender pay gap despite significant progress in women’s education and higher female labour market participation rates in many countries. The organisation also mentioned that it could take another 257 years to achieve economic gender parity at the pace it goes now.
The UN Women said that the average pay of women when compared to men was lower in all countries across all sectors for all levels of education and age groups. It also mentioned that gender pay gap differed from region to region and from country to country. They said that higher income countries tend to have lower levels of wage inequality compared to low and middle-income countries.
International Equal Pay Day
The day is commemorated on September 18 annually. This was established in 2019 by the UN General Assembly, which voiced deep concern over slow progress in women’s economic empowerment, the undervaluing of work traditionally held by women, and the difficulties in tackling pay inequality.