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Equal pay at work - A key gender issue highlighted on Oscar stage

27 February 2015 04:13 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Patricia Arquette, who carried away the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actress at Oscars this year, took the awards show to a political level when in her acceptance speech, she stressed on the fact that there still was a gap between what men and women earn. The actress wasn’t just referring to the entertainment industry; her remarks have brought on a new lease of life to the discussion on a key gender issue – that of equal pay.


Gender gap
When an issue gets highlighted on the Oscar stage, you know it has the potential to become a much-discussed subject. Often, actors have used their clout on the world’s stage to highlight issues that carry political and social weight. Yet, for all its glamour and global attention, the comments made by Arquette did carry weight in bringing attention to the issue at hand, that of women being paid less.

The Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum measures the degree of gender-based differences while monitoring progress in improvement of gender issues. While acknowledging that no single gauge can reflect all situations, the Global Gender Gap Index tries to measure the comparative gaps between women and men in key areas such as health, education, economy and politics.

According to the World Economic Forum, in the almost decade-old process of evaluating the gender gap, it seems that there has been only a marginal improvement in equality for women at work. The Global Gender Gap Report of 2014 notes that the gender gap for economic participation and opportunity is 60 percent globally – there has been an improvement though, given the fact that in 2006, it was 56 percent. If estimates are correct, this means that we will have to wait 81 years to close the gap!

Among the 142 countries covered in the study, it is noted that the gender gap is thinnest in terms of health and survival. Although this gap stands at 96 percent worldwide, 35 countries have been able to close the gap in total, three of them as recent as one year ago. The report further highlights that the educational attainment gap remains the next narrowest, with a figure of 94 percent worldwide.

Sri Lanka’s rank
Once again, 25 countries have closed this gap in total although the gender gap for economic participation and opportunity is still wide. In contrast, the gap for political empowerment, among the fourth pillar measured, has made an improvement since 2006 although it stands at just 21 percent overall.

The report notes that not a single country has yet been able to close the gender gap in total although the Nordic countries such as Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, followed by Denmark have succeeded as the countries with the narrowest gender gap. In these countries, women enjoy relatively fair opportunities.

The Philippines is recorded as Asia and the Pacific’s highest-ranked, followed by New Zealand at 13 and Australia at 24. Singapore, Laos and Thailand hold the 59th, 60th and 61st places, respectively, while Japan has gone up by slot to 104th. China has slipped 18 places to 87th while India has been ranked at a lowly 114th, making it the lowest ranked BRICS country with lessening participation of women in the work force.

Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, we have got grouped with six countries where the report notes that prospects for women have deteriorated considerably - along with Mali in Africa, Croatia and Macedonia in Europe and Jordan and Tunisia in the Middle East, Sri Lanka is noted as the singular nation in Asia where women’s participation in the four pillars of health, education, economy and politics is considerably low.

Kuwait, Luxembourg and Singapore have seen the largest gains in women’s income generation. Sri Lanka is once again noted for the lowest engagement for women in political empowerment while India is least noted for health and survival for women; Angola is singled out for being the lowest in educational prospects.

Exploiting conditions
The participation of women in the global labour force has stagnated at about 50 percent, while the figure for men still hovers at roughly 80 percent, according to statistics. Numbers further confirm that more than half of employed women are engaged in informal and vulnerable work; in subSaharan Africa and South Asia, over 80 percent of all jobs for women are unregulated and perilous.

Women are forced often to work in exploiting conditions while engaged in household chores such as taking care of the children and the elderly while cooking and washing up etc. In India, statistics show that women spend 10 times more on unpaid for chores than men; over 45 percent of women who are of working age are solely confine to domestic duties that do not allow them to engage in earning opportunities.

Cambodia perhaps holds a closer review for Sri Lanka as a case study; Cambodia’s GDP doubled between 2007 and 2013 thanks to its burgeoning garment industry, which is largely fuelled by female workers. Yet, the gender pay gap is said to have widened between 2004 and 2009. In 2014, nationwide strikes erupted, forcing industry to review equal pay opportunities.So what does all this mean for us i n terms of expecting equal opportunities, definitely equal pay and an equal playing field concerning career development?

As more and more young women enter the work force and are determined to make it to the top, these issues come to the surface and must be explored in a manner that truly empowers closing the gender gap instead of widening it.
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