International Equal Pay Day highlights an ongoing need for urgent action
On 18 September, the world celebrated its first ever International Equal Pay Day. To mark the occasion, the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), ILO, UN Women and the OECD, hosted a virtual global Call to Action encouraging all employers, governments and workers to take the necessary steps to ensure that “equal pay for work of equal value” is central to economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the global gender pay gap still sitting at 20%, the aim is that the Global Call to Action will drive real change for the future.
A variety of panellists participated in the discussion, including Samira Ahmed, BBC Journalist, Megan Rapinoe, Captain of the US National Women’s Soccer Team, and Iris Bohnet, Harvard Kennedy School Professor and Academic Dean. The conversation highlighted the necessity of the often underpaid and undervalued work which is the bedrock of our societies, noting that this work is predominantly carried out by women and girls. Equally, that women carried out three times more of unpaid work than men prior to COVID-19 and that this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Furthermore, with the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic being those in which physical interaction is essential, for example the hospitality sector, panellists noted again that these were more often female heavy roles.
All the panellists, through their unique stories and backgrounds, demonstrated the benefits to society, when work of equal value is afforded equal pay. From looking at the success of the Nordics where there is legislation addressing this already, to the example of Samira Ahmed asked for equal pay to her male colleagues at the BBC.
In order to progress, panellists said there is a real need to mainstream gender considerations and take action through legislation, policy measures, awareness campaigns and learn from good practice in the workplace. In conclusion, the panellists emphasised the importance of using any economic response to COVID-19 to address the gender pay gap and to use the recovery as an opportunity to prioritise it as a goal in making our economies more sustainable. Reflecting the key role parliamentarians can play to advance equal pay across the world, the IPU encouraged all member parliaments to participate in the event and BGIPU had encouraged relevant UK APPGs to participate.