Unequal pay is defined as the difference in the remuneration offered to men and women for the same job. This has been one of the most prominently debated gender based issues in our society. There is a lot of data that highlights the problem of gender based pay disparity, especially post-pandemic.
South Asia accounts for 24.89 per cent of the world’s population and is among the five hardest hit regions in terms of the economy due to being highly dependent on the unorganised sector and contract-intensive labour. Women being exposed to comparatively lesser opportunities and low or no education, along with the burden of managing households, are increasingly bound to depend on this sector. Corporate offices and other workplaces offer the space to function online and have some financial backup which is what the unorganised sector is deprived of, hence, affecting a larger number of women employed in the sector.
The pandemic exposed women’s precarious economic security with 740 million women working in the informal sector having their income fall by 60 per cent during the first month of the pandemic. 72 per cent of domestic workers, 82 per cent of whom are women, have already lost their jobs. With an already prevalent gender pay gap, these factors have added to the barriers in the economic independence of women. The gender pay gap not limited to any particular strata so to say. It works the same way across sectors, with different kinds of manifestations.
In India, where the gender ratio is almost as equal, men earn 82 per cent of the labour income whereas women earn just 18 per cent of it, according to the first estimates of gender inequality in global earnings presented in the World Inequality Report 2022.
‘My husband does not work at all. He is an alcoholic, and I handle both the domestic work that doesn’t pay, as well as work that pays me. I have to take care of my home because there is no one else to take the responsibility to cook and clean. I also work under the scorching heat of the sun, during periods and pregnancy. But whenever my husband goes to work, he is paid more wages. I cannot question him but I am smart enough to understand that it is unfair. I am forced to take up the work nonetheless, as there is no other way out’, says a daily wage earner. When she narrates her story, she also speaks for many other women who go through similar workplace discrimination in pay.
In organised sectors, pay gap reflects in other ways. Women in such sectors may be earning more consistently, but the space they have for negotiations, and the number of women who actually qualify for higher promotions with better pay packages in itself is very limited. Women’s restricted access to land, financial capital, and other assets makes it even harder for them to weather a crisis, bounce back and rebuild their stability as compared to their male counterparts. This creates a circle of dependency or loans which pushes them into more financial turbulence.
Socio-economic disparity and patriarchal power structures expose women to more unpaid care work and land the weight of multi-dimensional work, including primary caretaking on them. Factors such as non-inclusivity and sexual harassment in the workplace or any other form of micro-aggression further pressurise women to opt out of their career prospects due to lack of gender sensitive employment practices.
In a 2013 report, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, calling attention to the findings of the paper Women, Work, and the Economy, made the case for policymakers to adopt a gender lens and give women equal opportunities to participate in the work force. This has to be worked upon by governments through policies of change and education.
Removing gender-based legal restrictions, revising tax policies for secondary earners in families who are mostly women, creating fiscal space for priority expenditures such as infrastructure and education, as well as implementing gender-sensitive social benefits can aid in reducing gender pay gap significantly.
When policies would favour working women, create awareness and address the role of gender in creating pay gap as a part of equality and basic opportunity, things can gradually change for us.
Featured Image Source: Daliy Titan