On 17 January, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women held a webinar titled "Achieving Equal Pay: Lessons from the ILO 2018-2019 Global Wage Report and Global Stakeholders" as part of the EU-funded project to promote women’s economic empowerment at work.
The webinar aimed to give participants an understanding of the prevalence and drivers of the gender pay gap, as well as collaborative opportunities, and a toolkit of good practice examples. It included a briefing on the findings and policy lessons from the ILO’s Global Wage Report 2018/2019 by the report’s co-author, a presentation on the work of Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) and how stakeholders can join the initiative, followed the sharing of good practice policies of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), Starbucks, and IKEA.
1. Unequal pay between men and women remains a persistent problem that needs to be addressed
- The ILO Global Wage Report 2018/2019 finds that the gender wage gap on the global level is at about 20 per cent. Prejudice, stereotyping, cultural norms, the unequal share of unpaid care work, direct or indirect pay discrimination are among the root causes of pay inequality between women and men.
- The principle of equal pay for work of equal value is enshrined in the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100). It protects the right to equal pay not only in cases where men and women do the same or similar jobs, but also when they perform work that is different but which is of equal value based on objective criteria, such as skills, working conditions, responsibilities and effort.
- Laws and policies play an important role in closing the gender wage gap. Countries that have passed laws that are promising include Iceland, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. For example, Iceland requires companies to certify that they are paying their workers equally and France mandates collective bargaining agreements to include the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.
- Regional instruments can also be effective, such as the Recast Equal Opportunity and Treatment Directive which provides guidance, among other issues, on the implementation of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in the European Union.
- Social partners – trade unions and employers’ organizations – as well as companies can each play an important role to spur positive change through meaningful, measurable, and transformative policies.
2. How companies can ensure equal pay between women and men
- Starbucks removed arbitrary caps on pay increases associated with promotions. The company also prohibited questions about salary history during the hiring process to “…ensure that we do not import pay inequities from the labour market into our organization”. Starbucks attributes these, and other practices in its pay equity framework, to the achievement of 100 per cent equal pay for its workforce in the United States in 2018.
- IKEA found innovative ways to operationalize the principle of equal pay for work of equal value with an analysis of all top positions and the development of a pay assessment tool used for its global workforce. Measurement and transparency have also been a key component; IKEA performs and reports an annual assessment of pay equity and gender balance in company leadership.
3. Collaboration can build momentum for pay equity
- The Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) is a multi-stakeholder partnership working to reduce the gender pay gap at the global, regional and national levels. Led by the ILO, UN Women, and the OECD, it aims to achieve equal pay for women and men everywhere by bringing together a diverse set of actors with different areas of focus and expertise.
- The International Organisation of Employers (IOE), in collaboration with ILO ACT/EMP, created a compilation of good practices of some IOE members. Examples include training programs for staff on gender equality, mentoring programs for young female professionals, flexible work arrangements, and clear policies on sexual harassment and violence.
The webinar attracted 782 registrants, which translated into nearly 250 viewers (91 per cent women) primarily from the private and civil society sectors. Most participants reported becoming more informed on the topic after the webinar and the majority reported positive levels of satisfaction.