Constitution of India as well as ILO (International Labour Organization) are clear about human dignity and fairness in rewarding workers. In spite of all these provisions, various studies have shown that there is a gender pay gap. Women workers tend to earn less than their men counterparts in many industry sectors. The phenomenon is pronounced clearly in industries such as textile, construction, entertainment and agriculture. Women’s day celebration has become a lot more wide-spread, yet the basic principle of fair reward and human dignity continue to be global issues. However, there are various staffing agencies trying to bridge gaps by working closely with the corporates.
Our belief system should change first
It is easy to say that equal pay for men and women is needed. However, it is not possible to apply the principle on the ground because the business owners and senior managers do not believe that women and men can produce equal output. Many a times, they do not have a clear measurement system, rather they go by their mental measures. Further, they believe that a woman is weaker than a man and has many limitations that disables her to produce an output same as a man. These deeply-seated beliefs come on the way of implementation of equal pay for equal work.
If we have to eliminate the gender pay gap, we have to change this belief and make them accept the fact that a woman can produce the same output as a man in the same role.
Women by their physical being, need breaks from work for maternity and baby-care. Many a times, they share a large share of the responsibilities at home such as elder care, keeping the home tidy, cooking and so on. Thus, they face challenges to balance their time and focus between work and family. Workplaces which can find viable alternatives in staffing themselves will have less demand for employing women. Given the sluggish demand for women workers, it is likely that the principle of equal pay gets compromised. Just economics!
A large part of our population is still below the poverty line in spite of several well-meaning measures taken by the Government. There is a supply of blue collar workers from these families. Sometimes, there are women who are trying hard to get back to work after a hiatus. More often than not, these women are well-qualified and have relevant experience. Still, it is not easy for them to find meaningful work. In all these cases, they are willing to settle for a pay which might be lesser than the fair pay. Again, this is just economics of short-term gains.
Many small enterprises find it expensive in the short term to provide the statutory benefits to women such as paid leaves on maternity. So, they tend to mitigate the risk of such payments by paying lesser to women. Effective social security programmes can take away this responsibility from employers and hence, make it a level playing field for employment for any gender.
Many employers think that women produce lesser than their men counterparts. This is male chauvinistic thinking. There are many cases where women produce higher than men. Industry sectors such as manufacturing, assembly shops, electronic and electrical products, luxury goods, consumer products, education, science which employed only men just a few decades ago have increasing number of women working there. Old norms have to change if we can quantify work and measure them. Employers must find ways of doing this. It might surprise them to find many men working there as less productive than the women. It could be a paradigm shift in their thinking.
Pay should reflect the work output delivered now and the potential delivery in future. It cannot be a reflection of one’s gender, faith, whims and fancies.