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Equal pay

Prioritize pay equity in COVID-19 recovery

The Equal Pay International Coalition says governments need to take action to close the pay gap between women and men.

Press release | 18 September 2020
GENEVA (ILO News) – To mark the first International Equal Pay Day, the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) called on all leaders to take the necessary steps to ensure pay equity is at the heart of COVID-19 recovery efforts worldwide. 

Led by the OECD, ILO and UN Women, EPIC brings together a diverse set of actors and expertise to support governments, employers, workers, and their organizations to make concrete and co-ordinated progress to achieve equal pay for women and men everywhere.

COVID-19 has highlighted the fact that our economies and societies are built upon the essential, and often undervalued or unpaid labour of women and girls, says EPIC. Women comprise 70 per cent of the global health workforce and have been on the front lines as essential workers, community leaders, carers and social workers. Prior to COVID-19, women did, on average, three times more unpaid care work than men, and this responsibility has heightened since the pandemic, given school and childcare closures and increased care needs for elderly relatives.

Women in the workforce have been disproportionately impacted in the short-term economic fallout of COVID-19. Workforce sectors that rely on physical customer interaction, many of which are major employers of women, such as accommodation, food, beverage and retail services, have been hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic.

Women are also much more likely than men to be in the most vulnerable segments of the informal economy as domestic workers, home-based workers in the lower tiers of global supply chains, or as contributing family workers. As a result they have few protections against dismissal, and little access to social protection including paid sick leave.

To mark the first International Equal Pay Day, global leaders committed to take affirmative measures to narrow the pay gap at an event at United Nations headquarters in New York. EPIC called on governments, employers, workers and their organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia to ensure that integrated policy responses are aimed at mitigating job and income losses, and to ensure that women do not end up disproportionately shouldering job losses and reductions in incomes resulting from the pandemic.

Reflecting on her own personal experience as an advocate for equal pay, the captain of the US Women’s National Soccer team, Megan Rapinoe, said: “We need women to fight hard. We need political will to enact and enforce legislation. We need social will. All the bills in the world are worth nothing if the world doesn't want it. We need to come at it from every angle.”

The event included a collective message delivered by all representatives of the EPIC Steering Committee, including President of Iceland Guoni Johannessoe; Secretary-General of International Employers Organization Roberto Suarez Santos; Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation Sharan Burrow, as well as heads of the EPIC Secretariat, Guy Ryder, Director-General of ILO;  Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women; and Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of OECD.

The message called for a COVID-19 economic response that prioritizes the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value as a key driver of inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery; recognizes the value of unpaid care work; and provides access to affordable services, such as childcare and healthcare.

Sylvie Durrer, Director of Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality and Chair of the EPIC Steering Committee, underlined the importance of partnerships in this effort. “It is only together we can ensure that the response and recovery efforts lead to building a more inclusive and fair world of work,” she said.