By Akanimo Sampson
Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) says the pandemic has highlighted the fact that economies and societies are built upon the essential, and often undervalued or unpaid labour of women and girls.
EPIC acts at the global, regional and national levels to support governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and other stakeholders to take concrete steps to reduce the gender pay gap.
It accelerates progress towards gender pay equity by raising awareness, sharing knowledge, embracing innovation and scaling up initiatives and programmes that have already yielded positive results.
The Coalition also provides support to improve legislation, build capacity and strengthen monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
According to it, women comprise 70 per cent of the global health workforce and have been on the front lines as essential workers, community leaders, carers and social workers.
Prior to COVID-19, women did, on average, three times more unpaid care work than men, and this responsibility has heightened since the pandemic, given school and childcare closures and increased care needs for elderly relatives.
Women in the workforce have been disproportionately impacted in the short-term economic fallout of COVID-19. Workforce sectors that rely on physical customer interaction, many of which are major employers of women, such as accommodation, food, beverage and retail services, have been hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic.
Women are also much more likely than men to be in the most vulnerable segments of the informal economy as domestic workers, home-based workers in the lower tiers of global supply chains, or as contributing family workers.
As a result they have few protections against dismissal, and little access to social protection including paid sick leave.
To mark the first International Equal Pay Day, EPIC called on all leaders to take the necessary steps to ensure pay equity is at the heart of COVID-19 recovery efforts worldwide.
International Equal Pay Day, celebrated for the first time this 18 September, represents the longstanding efforts towards the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value. It further builds on the United Nations commitment to human rights and against all forms of discrimination, including discrimination against women and girls.
Across all regions, women are paid less than men, with the gender pay gap estimated at 23 per cent globally.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls continues to be held back owing to the persistence of historical and structural unequal power relations between women and men, poverty and inequalities and disadvantages in access to resources and opportunities that limit women’s and girls’ capabilities.
Progress on narrowing that gap has been slow. While equal pay for men and women has been widely endorsed, applying it in practice has been difficult.
In order to ensure that no one is left behind, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address the need to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
Furthermore, the SDGs promote decent work and economic growth by seeking full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
Mainstreaming of a gender perspective is crucial in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Achieving equal pay is an important milestone for human rights and gender equality. It takes the effort of the entire world community and more work remains to be done.
The United Nations, including UN Women and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) invites Members states and civil society, women’s and community-based organisations and feminist groups, as well as businesses and workers’ and employers’ organisations, to promote equal pay for work of equal value and the economic empowerment of women and girls.
Led by the OECD, ILO and UN Women, EPIC brings together a diverse set of actors and expertise to support governments, employers, workers, and their organisations to make concrete and co-ordinated progress to achieve equal pay for women and men everywhere.
The EPIC Secretariat comprises the ILO, UN Women and the OECD. Steering Committee members today include Canada, Egypt, Iceland, Jordan, New Zealand, Panama, South Africa, Switzerland, the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
Other EPIC stakeholders include Australia, France, Germany, Israel, Republic of Korea, Peru, Portugal, United Kingdom and other national workers’ and employers’ organisations as well as a number of private sector companies and civil society organisations. EPIC also includes Equal Pay Champions who are influential individuals who advocate for equal pay in their personal capacity.
Widespread awareness, built on a strong foundation of empirical evidence, is crucial for tackling discrimination, which often reinforces the gender pay gap. Their work includes advocacy campaigns and equal pay conferences, meetings and sharing of good practices to increase public awareness and media coverage on the issue.
To mark the first International Equal Pay Day, global leaders committed to take affirmative measures to narrow the pay gap at an event at United Nations headquarters in New York.
International Equal Pay Day 2020: Building back a better future of work …
EPIC called on governments, employers, workers and their organisations, the private sector, civil society and academia to ensure that integrated policy responses are aimed at mitigating job and income losses, and to ensure that women do not end up disproportionately shouldering job losses and reductions in incomes resulting from the pandemic.
Reflecting on her own personal experience as an advocate for equal pay, the captain of the US Women’s National Soccer team, Megan Rapinoe, said: “We need women to fight hard. We need political will to enact and enforce legislation. We need social will. All the bills in the world are worth nothing if the world doesn’t want it. We need to come at it from every angle.”
The event included a collective message delivered by all representatives of the EPIC Steering Committee, including President of Iceland Guoni Johannessoe; Secretary-General of International Employers Organization Roberto Suarez Santos; Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation Sharan Burrow, as well as heads of the EPIC Secretariat, Guy Ryder, Director-General of ILO; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; and Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of OECD.
The message called for a COVID-19 economic response that prioritizes the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value as a key driver of inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery; recognizes the value of unpaid care work; and provides access to affordable services, such as childcare and healthcare.
Sylvie Durrer, Director of Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality and Chair of the EPIC Steering Committee, underlined the importance of partnerships in this effort. “It is only together we can ensure that the response and recovery efforts lead to building a more inclusive and fair world of work,” she said.