By Victor Ahiuma-young
ONE of the most persistent barriers to women’s success at work and to economic growth, unequal pay, will be actively challenged by a new global partnership, the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), the International Labour Organisation, ILO has said.

A female engineer

ILO in a release, said with the launch of EPIC, the ILO United Nations, UN, Women and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, bring together a diverse set of actors at the global, regional and national levels to support governments, employers and workers and their organizations, and other stakeholders, to establish equal pay between women and men for work of equal value a reality.

“One of the most visible, tangible and pervasive manifestations of discrimination is that women across the globe are still being paid less than men for work of equal value. That is why this equal pay initiative was developed and why it is a focus area of the ILO’s Women at Work Centenary Initiative. The principle of equal pay for work of equal value is enshrined in the ILO Constitution of 1919. One hundred years is too long to wait, and we must all work together to make equal pay for work of equal value a reality,” said Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the ILO.

EPIC is a global response to a critical problem that has been prioritized in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular Target 8.5 which calls for equal pay for work of equal value by 2030.

Equal pay, in addition to empowering women, can have a significant impact on achieving other key goals such as promoting inclusive societies, reducing poverty, and creating conditions for decent work and gender equality.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, said “there is no justification for unequal pays for a woman when her job is of equal value to a man’s. This injustice has been unseen for too long, and together we are changing that. Equal pay for women translates into lifelong benefits for them as well as their families: better career prospects and lifetime earnings, greater independence, and higher investments in their children’s education and health.”

Employers and trade unions, as well as other key stakeholders, will have a central role in the application and rolling out of equal pay policies. A Platform of Champions, launched earlier this year by UN Women at the Commission on the Status of Women, will also contribute to strengthening advocacy on equal pay, as part of EPIC.

A recent ILO-Gallup report, based on a representative survey of 142 countries, shows that women and men alike want women to be in paid jobs, but there remain a range of challenges for women at work, including unequal pay, balancing work and family responsibilities, lack of access to affordable care, and unfair treatment.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría noted that “gender inequality has many roots, including flawed policies, discriminatory laws and regulations, misplaced economic incentives, workplace practices, and social norms and institutions.”

He asserted that “it is in our power to make an immediate improvement in the quality of life of hundreds of millions of women and their families if we succeed in delivering equal pay for men and women.”

The issue of equal pay remains high on the UN’s agenda. This year, the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment, released a report that focused on transformative actions needed to advance women’s economic empowerment, highlighting the importance of equal pay for work of equal value.

The innovative work of the newly created EPIC will contribute significantly to challenging some of the main assumptions reinforcing unequal pay, which were also highlighted by the High-Level Panel and the ILO-Gallup report.

Meanwhile, the ILO Director General, Guy Ryder has said social dialogue can drive productivity and sustainable business growth as well as result in better training and skills levels for employees.

Mr. Ryder said this at the launch of a new publication by the ILO, the OECD and the Global Deal secretariat, in New York.

The Thematic Brief, “Achieving Decent Work and Inclusive Growth: The Business Case for Social Dialogue,” was launched by the ILO Director-General at a Global Deal event attended by company representatives.

It highlights how effective social dialogue can result in mutually beneficial outcomes for governments, businesses, workers and wider society.

“Take, for example, the case of the construction of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in the UK. That four billion pound investment was completed without one single working hour being lost to disputes, with a below-average level of absenteeism, and with reduced costs – all this, while preserving labour standards above the average for the industry,” Ryder said. “And that happened not by accident, but as a result of social dialogue between the unions concerned and the management that created a framework collective agreement for all the multiple producers and suppliers involved.”

The ILO Director-General also cited examples from Africa and Asia, among others, where social dialogue can result in better training and skills levels, or in a downturn can lead to negotiations on job protection in exchange for temporary reductions in working hours and salaries.

“In Sweden itself, for example, the Crisis Agreement during the last major economic downturn is estimated to have saved over 12,000 jobs, while at the same time enabling business to achieve a faster recovery and to retain more of their skilled workers,” Ryder noted.

“The Global Deal is about ensuring that more people around the world have secure and good jobs, and about a more equal distribution of our economic resources,” said Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden. “Globalization presents opportunities, but requires a more equal distribution. More people need jobs with decent conditions and a salary they can live on. This is a prerequisite for globalization to be a positive force.”

The Global Deal is a global multi-stakeholder partnership with the objective of jointly addressing the challenges in the global labour market and enabling all people to benefit from globalization.

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