Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Posts Tagged ‘Equal pay

International Women’s Day

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8 March is International Women’s Day (loading very slowly, today) – a day adopted by the United Nations in 1975 to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas. The banner under which events are taking place this year is ‘Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, Progress For All‘ and they include an event at the TUC tonight promising ‘a night of comedy, music, poetry, politics and campaigning‘. LabourList is also commemorating the event with a day of women-only blogging, under a female guest editor following Rowenna Davis’s turn in the hot seat last year.

Justice for Colombia, to which Prospect is affiliated, is holding a one hour vigil at the Colombian Embassy today at 4pm to mark International Women’s Day and protest against the ongoing detention of human rights defender Liliany Obando, while Prospect members can download an excellent newsletter celebrating the achievements of women in Prospect.

For as long as inequality remains, we need to be reminded of why, so such special days as these continue to be useful. But, as Michael Foot said:

Describe the challenges by all means, but don’t confuse analysis with action. The one must lead to the other if it is to be useful to people. (Hat-tip: Roger Darlington)

Making International Women’s Day useful to women across the globe via practical action will, I suspect, continue to be a source of challenge for the organisers of such events, and policy-makers more generally, for some time to come.


Written by Calvin

08/03/2010 at 1:33 pm

Equal Pay Day 2009

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… Is today. Or, perhaps, it’s Unequal Pay Day since 30 October is when women stop getting paid this year.

The Fawcett Society, which works for gender equality in the UK, has launched the initiative on the basis that, with an equal pay gap of 17.1% at the full-time level, this is the point in the year when women are effectively working for their employers for free compared to their male counterparts who will get paid right the way through until 31 December. The equivalent of 62 working days without pay.

You can find out more about the Fawcett Society campaign here, while Connect reps can access Connect’s equal pay pages – including the submission on equal pay audits about which I blogged a couple of days agohere. A group of leading campaigners, including the TUC’s Brendan Barber, has also written to The Guardian seeking a number of initiatives designed to deliver justice in the workplace for women.

With the EHRC consultation on equal pay audits, there is the opportunity to make real strides for equal pay in 2010 and beyond – should it be bold enough to recommend that the government take decisive action via mandatory pay audits. It is clear to us that the voluntary approach will not deliver the real action required to ensure that the equal pay gap is closed and, in this context, the government’s reluctance to take that step is hard to understand. The forthcoming Equalities Bill offers the opportunity to address this and we would urge the government to use it to make a start on extending the pay calendar for women by introducing equal pay audits.

Written by Calvin

30/10/2009 at 12:05 pm

UK slips in gender gap league

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A report published today by the World Economic Forum (link is to press release) shows the UK slipping to 15th place in a table of 134 countries on the issue of gender equality. This continues a process of gentle decline which has seen the UK slip from 9th in 2006 to 11th, 13th and now 15th.

The Forum’s gender gap index assesses how well countries are dividing resources and opportunities between men and women, regardless of the overall levels of these resources and opportunities, and combines individual assessments within four overall sub-indices: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.

The UK ranks top (or, rather, equal top) in terms of the indices on educational attainment, but 22nd on political empowerment, 35th on economic participation and opportunity, and 72nd on health and survival (largely owing to a rather low-looking ‘healthy life expectancy’ of 72 for women and 69 for men).

Income falls within the economic  participation and opportunity sub-index, and here the UK ranks 20th with women’s estimated earned income, in terms of purchasing power parity, standing at 70% of that of men. This is actually the UK’s best result within this index but survey figures on wage equality for similar work show a figure of just 64%  – and the UK ranks 78th, its lowest level within this whole sub-index (just for comparison, Uzbekistan ranked top on this measure).

Nordic countries, headed by Iceland, filled the first four places – the same four countries as in 2008 (albeit in a different order). New Zealand filled fifth place, as it did in 2008, while South Africa jumped from 22nd to 6th, as a result predominantly of improvements in women’s participation in the labour force and in the representation of women both in the South African parliament and the government.

The individual component figures in the survey can always be challenged, but the survey acts as a useful check on the UK’s general progress towards gender equality – or, in this case, its lack thereof. The result on pay equality is particularly poor and chimes with recent research in the UK which shows that the gender pay gap remains, in the words of the Women and Work Commission, ‘stubbornly persistent‘ despite a reducing trend. At the same time, however, it does provide an opportunity to address the factors which might provide for the step-change required for women to break through the gap which remains.

Perhaps Proposals for promoting greater transparency in the private sector, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission consultation on improving gender equality in the workplace which closes tomorrow, might provide some way forward. As far as Connect is concerned, and as we argued in our submission to the consultation, mandatory pay audits are the way forward since they lead to structured and agreed action being taken towards a closing of the gap, with subsequent publication being the trigger both for accountability and for action.

Written by Calvin

27/10/2009 at 5:47 pm

Tackling the equal pay gap

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The reconvened Women and Work Commission has produced a report with a series of 43 policy actions which it suggests might make a contribution to narrowing the equal pay gap. The report pays particular attention to what can be done in education to tackle occupational segregation characteristics which act to divert women to poorly-valued, underpaid jobs, as well as to what needs to be done to allow women to access continued learning and development opportunities and to encourage a better balance between work and family life for all. The report also looks at what is beng done in the public sector.

The report is produced against the backdrop of an equal pay gap which is not only no longer closing but is actually widening – the gap was 22.2% in 2009, compared to 21.9% in 2007 when the Commission last reported (similarly, the gap for full-time workers has also risen, from 12.5% in 2007 to 12.8% now).

There has been some progress on some issues but, in terms both of education of the under 14s and in terms of balancing work and family life, the Commission highlights that significant progress since 2007 has yet to be made.

The policy actions suggested by the Commission will make a difference – even if some of them are clearly geared to the long-term. That’s the right focus – looking back over the nearly 40 years history of the Equal Pay Act (before which it was perfectly legitimate for there to be four rates of pay in a factory: the skilled rate; the semi-skilled rate; the unskilled rate; and the women’s rate), which is a pretty clear definition of the long-term, progress has clearly been made.

But more needs to be done and, whether or not we’re in a recession, the lack of equal pay remains a travesty (a ‘national scandal’, in the eyes of Rowena Lewis, acting Director of the Fawcett Society). Alongside the Society, I believe that systemic discrimination within pay systems tends to explain a large part of the equal pay gap which remains (almost certainly so amongst Connect members at managerial and professional level) and would like to see every company compelled to produce a regular equal pay audit. Equal pay audits (not one of the Commission’s 43 policy actions) can be a powerful tool for identifying, rooting out and preventing the re-occurrence of equal pay problems but (perhaps as a result) statutory backing for them appears likely to be necessary, with employers tending to be reluctant to engage in such a process on a voluntary basis.

Shame that the employer representatives on the Commission (as I imagine) managed to get this defeated yet again.

Written by Calvin

29/07/2009 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Trade union issues, Working lives

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