Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is the difference between the rates women and men are paid for doing the same job. It has been an issue that has been looked at by policy makers ever since women started entering the labour market in large numbers. An organization that has monitored this issue is the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). OECD countries have an average wage gap of 15% with the range of 3.9% to 40%. This means that women salaries range from 60 cents to 96.1 cents for every dollar earned by men with an average of 85 cents. These statistics are based on men and women with similar professional skills, history and education.
Another underlying factor that seems to worsen the situation is the fact that some life events have a direct influence on both men and women’s careers. Women seem to bear the brunt of the impact that marriage and having children has on a career. They get penalised whereas their male counterparts get incentivised up to 2% by employers for the same events.
The labour force has had a lot of change throughout the years. Now women make up almost 50% of the workforce and the majority of these women are the highest income earners in their families or the only breadwinners and others even support more than one family. Surely this more than anything else should prompt policy makers to remedy the situation. There are currently more single income female headed families now than ever before, and it does not look like the situation will improve. Women should therefore earn as much as their male counterparts for doing the same job.
It is recognised all over the world that once you educate a woman, you educate a nation. There has been a huge drive and focus on ensuring that the girl child receives an excellent education and opportunities for growth and success. This is crucial for women empowerment and towards the achievement of the Millennium Developmental Goals. Investing in women and girls will have a powerful impact on the any economy and will create a better world for both men and women. Governments need to take the next step in ensuring that the gender pay gap is eliminated through policies and legislation. Organizations that perpetuate the gender pay gap need to be penalised. And transparency is crucial; employers need to lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds employee salaries. Just as public sector salaries are publicised, the same should apply to the private sector. Governments need to realise that there will be an economic and social cost to allowing the gap to continue.
Life events should not be looked at by employers as just female issues. An overhaul of policies such as maternity and parental leave policies needs to occur. There is also a growing trend of women opting for part-time work or for working in smaller organizations due to them wanting to put their families first. Women should not be forced to make these sacrifices they should have the option of continuing on their career-path without having to cut back. Employers need to find a way of being supportive and accommodating as women often take this time off during their most productive years. This therefore becomes a loss both to the employer and the woman’s career. Therefore policymakers need to be more gender focused in favour of women their policies and legislation.

By Ziyanda Xaso


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