Equal Pay Day: Why women in Scotland are working for free from today

Nathanael Williams

On the day that women start working effectively for free, CommonSpace breaks down the gender pay gap in Scotland

WOMEN in academia, business, and the third sector have marked Equal Pay Day by drawing attention to the economic and social structural inequities that women have to face in Scotland.

We look at the numbers, what action has been taken and what women are saying across Scotland.

What is Equal Pay Day?

Today [Thursday 10 November] marks Equal Pay Day, when, as a result of women being paid less for work than men, women across the UK end up effectively working for free for the rest of the year.

What are the numbers?

According to Close the Gap, the pay gap in Scotland was 15 per cent when comparing men's hourly earnings with women's hourly earnings; rising to 32.2 per cent when women's part-time earnings are factored in.

Based on research conducted by the organisation they state that on average women in Scotland earn £182.90 per week less than men when all structural factors are taken into account.

Women in Scotland account for 49 per cent of the labour market and 76 per cent of all part-time workers in Scotland.

Forty two per cent of women employed in Scotland work part-time compared to 13 per cent of men and this has an impact on earnings but also promotion and is partly rooted in what the Fawcett society called the “motherhood penalty” where women are barred full access to the job market following childbirth and occupational segregation.

Occupational Segregation

Women in Scotland are more likely to be concentrated in certain industries, such as public administration, education and health industries which account for 48 per cent women’s employment.

These sectors are more subjected to cuts, austerity, poor promotional trends, low pay and insecure job status.

For example, 7 per cent of workers in childcare and early years education are women and 98 per cent of classroom assistants are women. Classroom assistants are an occupation that suffer serious underpay.

What action have women been taking around the world?

In October women in Iceland left work and protested at the inequity in wages.

This week, the Financial Times reported that women in French workplaces downed tools at 4.34pm, to highlight the second at which their annual 38.2 days of “unpaid labour” starts.

The US has seen mass mobilisation with the National Committee For Pay Equity (NCPE) announcing protests in Washington, supported by several groups.

What are women in Scotland saying?

Talat Yaqoob, chair of Women 5050 said: “It has been over 40 years since Equal Pay Act legislation was introduced, the fact that women are still not paid equally for the same work is an absolute disgrace. Equal Pay Day is the perfect illustration of how much we need to do to value women's work and tackle occupational segregation. Getting more women in decision making positions like parliament is key to this – if we had more women making the decisions from the start, there is no doubt in my mind that we would be streets ahead in women's economic equality."

Laura Hinton, executive board member and head of people at Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), said: “It’s unacceptable that at this rate it will take over 60 years to close the gender pay gap. Until we tackle the underlying causes of the gap, progress will be slow. This is about more than just publishing pay gap data – organisations need a plan for how they’re going to close it. This means setting gender and ethnicity targets, challenging recruitment processes, making more jobs available flexibly, encouraging more men to take shared parental leave and getting more experienced women back into work after career breaks.

Emma Ritch, director of Engender said: Almost half a century after the Equal Pay Act, women are still paid substantially less than men over their lifetimes, with a lower average hourly wage, a reduced chance of being found in high paid senior management roles, and a  nationwide undervaluing of the work women do. We fully support women using direct action to protest this inequality – which contributes to high levels of poverty amongst women – and raise awareness of the fact that the pay gap equates to women being paid nothing from today until the end of the year, while men get paid all year.

Picture courtesy of the European Parliament

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