The Need for Equality in the Sphere of Employment in the Context of Development.
By Anusha Nagavarapu
“Women are better off today, but far from being equal to men.”
- The Guardian
The gender wage gap continues to be one of the most pressing issues faced by women, worldwide. Even with the rapid rate at which progress and development are taking place, the Gender Wage Gap issue is one that occurs across almost all occupations and industries. There are several opinions going around on the subject, the most popular one being that the Gender Pay Gap does not exist, owing to the fact that there is progress, and women are doing much better now, than earlier. A slight upwards slope in the graph must not be confused for an absolute progression, because Gender Pay Gap is very real, almost dangerously so.
It’s persistent, rampant and extremely detrimental to the economic security of all women, across the globe. The Gender Wage Gap issue is one that has many aspects to it, those being moral, economic, and social as well as cultural, but in this paper, it shall be discussed in the context of economic progress and development. It is an understatement that bridging the Gender Wage Gap is of paramount importance, given the fact that it drastically contributes to economic development. A nation that pays its male and female counterparts equally, is a nation that would rise, as a strong one. A country is only as powerful as its women are, and bridging the Wage gap would surely be the first step towards such development. Besides the obvious moral implication behind paying employees equally, regardless of their gender, this is also necessitated by the fact that an obvious developmental growth is ensured when this gap is eradicated. Sound implementation of such policies is one way of reaching such a goal, and it is essential to do so.
Why does it exist?
The Gender Pay Gap is essentially a gap that exists between what men are paid, and that of what women are paid in terms of their employment. Taking into consideration several facts and statistics, women are grossly underpaid in their work, be it any field, when compared to their male counterparts.
To illustrate some reasons for why the gender gap exists, we may take the example of Canada. The Gender Wage Gap is complex, and a result of a variety of factors.
Jobs that conform to traditional gender roles tend to be undervalued.
A traditional gender role refers to those jobs that are traditionally expected to be done by men or women, owing to cultural stereotypes. For example, women are expected to take up roles involving cooking or teaching and men, those involving hard labor. These jobs are often undervalued because a parallel is created to that of domestic work, and there is a general assumption that women are expected to work for free. When women comprise a large part of a specific industry, for example, such as the education sector, wages with respect to such a sector become devalued. This would also explain the situation in India, and would answer the question, “Why are our teachers paid so less?” It’s because of the fact that women take up a large part of such a sector that an inherent bias sets in (owing to socio-cultural reasons), and lecturers, professors, and teachers often end up earning peanuts, especially in comparison to their male counterparts.
Taking the example of Canada, 97% of truck drivers are paid a salary of $45,417 per year. In contrast with women, 97% of early childhood educators in Canada are female and are paid $25.334 per year. This in itself, is a clear indication of the wage gap.
More women work part-time, than men.
Women have legitimate reasons for working part-time. Those including lack of affordable childcare and the general notion that women need to carry on many domestic responsibilities, and the pressure that comes with it. These factors are directly linked to women’s capability in the workplace. As a result, if any of these reasons do come up during their employment, a woman would be seen as an unfit employee, thereby reducing her chances of a promotion and salary hike. According to Statistics Canada, 21.7% of women who were away during the work week listed family responsibilities as the cause, compared with only 9.3% of men.
There exists a general bias against women, and they are often discriminated against.
Women are often seen as the weaker sex, in all spheres of life. Be it employment, be it society. It goes without saying that there exists a general bias against women, due to which they are paid less. Some of the factors contributing to this bias are unexplained ones; ones that cannot be understood from a logical standpoint. The pay gap is a result of many factors, and these even include racial bias, disability, a general bias against working mothers, age and superficial factors such as a woman’s appearance or looks.
The Need for Bridging the Gender Wage Gap- Global Development
From an economic perspective, reducing the gender gap in labor force participation could substantially boost global GDP. This is also beneficial in terms of the GDP of individual countries, as the regions having the largest gender gaps would see huge growth benefits. Bridging the Gender Wage Gap in simple terms just means investing in the women of a particular country. It is the most viable solution in terms of economic development, and the most logical one, because a nation is only as developed as its people are, and a nation is only as strong as its women are. A study by ILO states that the economy would grow by over 9.2% by 2025 in Southern Asia if the gender gaps in the labor markets were reduced. If the growth of 9.2% can be achieved merely in the span of six years from now by taking such a step, the growth over decades with a well-formulated plan of action involving effective policy implementation along with legislation would be exponential.
Bridging this gap would boost economic growth, lead to better development outcomes, and in turn promote economic resilience. The unemployment rates in India for women are 4.2%, according to the World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for Women 2017. The Labour Force Participation rates in the world, for women, are 48.7%, and that of men is 75.2%. This is a clear indication that the Gender Wage Gap is very real, and that global development is being hampered, as a result. Gender equality happens to be one of the 17 global UN Sustainable Development Goals, all of which are keys to ending poverty. So in this sense, bridging the Gender gap is not only conducive to overall economic development but is also beneficial in terms of sustainable development; and the same has been emphasized by Taormina Leaders’ Summit in 2017. They renewed the emphasis on promoting women’s empowerment, which the leaders view as an essential contribution to promote sustainable development.
When the situation all over the globe seems to be so dire, to the point where citizens of a country aren’t being paid what they deserve by the virtue of their gender, one can only wonder why leaders all across the globe don’t view it as an essential imperative to tackle. Women need pay, just as much as men do. And when they are paid, the same would return to the overall growth of a country, a thousand-fold, because it’s an investment like any other. The reason why development is hampered and overall GDP is obstructed is because half the population of the country isn’t being paid its due, and to top it off, the other half is being paid more. By extension, there is a large gap that has to lead to an imbalance, in this sense. Women’s economic empowerment is key for growth, both through the direct impact of the size of the labor force on output and through the impact on productivity.
In this context, it is essential for women to leave traditional gender roles and those positions that offer unequal pay and move towards positions that support higher corporate profits. But the same doesn’t take place owing to the fact that inequality of opportunities, such as education, health services, and finance contribute to women working in informal sectors where earnings are lower. This is again a result of income inequality.
Promoting gender equality promotes economic resilience. Gender equality is associated with greater export diversification, reducing the risk of concentration only in a few commodities. When gender inequality persists, it places a restriction on the talent pool, resulting in a lack of efficiency when it comes to allocation of resources and thereby leads to a loss in productivity.
As analyzed above, there exist a number of reasons for why the Gender Wage Gap exists. But the way to tackle the gender gap is by focusing on the minute, yet important grassroots-level aspects of a nation. Policies should focus on investing in education, health, infrastructure, and promoting equal rights. Effective policy implementation could go a long way in bridging the gender wage gap. Education should focus on the elimination of gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles that hinder women and men from adopting a more varied approach when it comes to their careers. Providing effective childcare and recognizing that shunning women away due to their maternal and familial responsibilities is not going to promote any sort of productivity, is an important step in this regard. Paid maternity leave acts as an incentive for women to take up jobs that aren’t traditionally stereotypical, and it promotes productivity. At the end of the day, incentives are a great way to ensure productivity. In the arena of general public policy, it is essential to reform legal frameworks to ensure removal of any hindrances to gender equality. Women must not be viewed as the weaker class or the weaker sex that requires upliftment and pity, but as a means to an end. They are the driving force behind massive development; the key to the ultimate solution. They are a viable human resource, one whose potential if tapped can bring about magnificent results in terms of progress.