THE ISSUE: Pay parity still elusive
EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK is a phrase that is often heard in discussions on employment issues. It generally relates to the phenomenon of women being paid less than men for doing the same job. It goes beyond a gender issue, though, since people of different races, classes and social backgrounds are also negatively impacted.
One of the most high profile cases was that of American Lilly Ledbetter, whose fight for pay parity as a Goodyear tyre factory manager, eventually led to the introduction of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. This was the first bill United States President Barack Obama signed into law in January 2009.
In 2012, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) released a study entitled New Century, Old Disparities. It found that “despite recent gains, the wage gap between men and women in Latin America still prevails”. The research was based on “surveys of representative households in 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries”.
The study found: even with more education than men, women are still concentrated in lower paid occupations such as teaching, health care or the service sector; when comparing men and women of the same age and educational level, men earn 17 per cent more than women in Latin America; and this wage gap has been decreasing in recent years, but at a pace that remains slow. It concluded that “changing household roles and stereotypes is essential to attaining gender equality in the labour market”.
“The evidence from the literature on the gender earnings gap generally indicates that women in Caribbean countries earn less on average than men,” the report stated.
A previous IDB study, Gender Earnings Gaps In The Caribbean: Evidence From Barbados And Jamaica, found that the fact that women were generally more educated than men did not equate to pay parity.
“In both countries, as in most of the region, females’ educational achievement is higher than that of males. Jamaica shows lower educational achievement and higher gender disparities in such achievement than Barbados,” it stated.
“Nonetheless, males’ earnings surpass those of their female peers. A comparison of earnings for males and females with the same age and education reveals that males earn 25 per cent of average female earnings more than females in Barbados. The corresponding figure in Jamaica is 12 per cent of average female earnings.”
Recent research released by the World Economic Forum suggested that Barbados had seen some improvement in the pay parity area, although there was some way to go.
Barbados and other regional countries are not alone in lagging in this area. Research from McKinsey Global Institute found that US$12 trillion could be added to global gross domestic product by 2025 if women’s equality was advanced. It said the public, private, and social sectors needed to act to close gender gaps in work and society.
“Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. If women – who account for half the world’s working-age population – do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer,” the report stated.
Addressing the issue recently, veteran trade unionist Dennis De Peiza said parity was still a desired goal.
“Statistics show that the global female labour force was estimated to be 1.3 billion in 2012, which accounted for approximately 39.9 per cent of the total labour force of 3.3 billion. Research points to the trend where women are moving out of agriculture in developing economies, out of industry in developed economies and into services,” he said.
“It is to be expected that as they compete for jobs, having all the requisite academic qualifications, skills and expertise, there can be no grounds for them to be discriminated against in any form or fashion.”