The Recession
The Recession

Turns Out Women Earn Even Less than We Thought

| by AFL-CIO

In the current global economic crisis when jobs and living standards for millions of workers are threatened, a new report reveals the pay gap between men and women worldwide may be much higher than previously believed. The report, Gender (in)Equality in the Labor Market, puts the global pay gap at up to 22 percent, rather than the official government figure of 16.5 percent reported last year.

The report, released today by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), in advance of International Women’s Day, March 8, reaffirms what union members already know: Women who belong to unions earn more than nonunion women and receive better pay relative to their male co-workers. Click here to read the entire report.

Says ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder:

This report clearly confirms the advantage which men and women workers gain from union membership, which is all the more important in the current global economic crisis when jobs and living standards for millions of workers are under severe threat.

The report also confirms that women workers who have higher education still receive less pay in nearly every profession than their male counterparts. In the United States, the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees (DPE) found recently that even though women workers are better educated than men, they earn less. In 2005, full-time women workers in the United States who graduated from high school earned 34 percent less than men with similar degrees. Women with bachelor’s degrees earned 31 percent less. Those with master’s degrees were paid 32 percent less and those with doctorates received about 30 percent less. Click here to read the entire fact sheet, “Salaried and Professional Women: Relevant Statistics.”

U.S. working women took a big step toward pay equity in January when President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that strengthens womens’ right to gain equal pay for equal work.

Says ITUC President Sharan Burrow:

There are a number of reasons why women still earn so much less than men, including overt as well as subtle discrimination against women in the labor market and in the workplace, the way that employers, especially in the private sector, handle promotions to better-paid jobs, and lack of maternity protection for women and parenting leave that both men and women can access.

One way women are discriminated against is by the refusal of many employers to provide paid maternity leave (see video). In a study of 19 countries with comparable per capita income, the Economic Policy Institute found the United States provides the fewest maternity leave benefits in both length of leave and paid time off. That doesn’t include any disability insurance for which mom may qualify.

The U.S. federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which has been the law for 15 years, gives eligible parents 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a new child. Aside from being unpaid, the leave is limited to workplaces of more than 50 employees, which excludes about 48 million workers.

The ITUC report also points out the appalling human and economic cost of violence against women, taking a close look at the impact of violence against women at home, in society and at work. The report cites Worlds Health Organization figures, which show that in some countries, a majority of women experience physical assault and psychological intimidation. Globally, an average of some one-third of women suffer from violence at some stage in their lives.

Along with the lasting physical and mental damage caused by violence against women, the report clearly demonstrates how it affects on women’s employment and economic situation. The report gives examples of the total economic cost of violence against women in several countries indicating that the total global cost is likely to be in the tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars.

Adds Burrow:

Unions around the world are working to stop violence against women, through government action, raising awareness and also action in workplaces. We are calling on governments to work together to build a complete picture of the causes and effects, including analysis of the huge economic costs which add to the impacts on women themselves and on society.