Women's Rights in Denmark
Denmark is well-known as an egalitarian society with a generous welfare system that provides equal opportunities for men and women to thrive. However, in recent years, the nation’s efforts in advancing women’s rights in Denmark have been progressing slower in comparison to neighboring Scandinavian regions of Sweden and Norway. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 report ranked Denmark 29th for gender equality out of 258 nations, down from 14th place in 2020.

Political Participation

In 1814, Denmark passed a law on “universal primary education,” granting children irrespective of gender the right to seven years of education. This was the beginning of gender equality efforts in Denmark.

In Denmark’s 1849 and 1866 constitutions, “political engagement was reserved for men over the age of 30 who headed their own households.” In 1871, the Danish Women’s Society emerged to promote social change for women through advocacy and legislation. In addition, in 1915, Denmark through the “democracy constitution” granted women the right to vote and run for the parliamentary election.

Then, in 1924, Denmark appointed Nina Bang as minister of education, becoming “the world’s first female minister in a country with parliamentary democracy.” Women’s rights in Denmark have continued to evolve and advance over the years considering the increased level of women’s involvement in social causes and politics. Denmark elected the country’s first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in 2011. In addition, Denmark elected Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen as the second female prime minister and current Danish leader in 2019.

Gender Equality

The 1999 Amsterdam Treaty of the European Union influenced the gender equality legislation in Denmark. The Amsterdam Treaty “promotes respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms into the formal structure of the EU. It also strengthens and focuses the European commitment to gender equality and extends the equality principle beyond the workplace.”

Efforts to achieve gender parity in Denmark have focused for many years on women’s participation in public life and the decision-making process. The traditional independence of Danish women influenced women’s integration in the decision-making process. In 1999, the Danish government, in its effort to strengthen and promote equal gender participation, appointed a minister for gender equality to advance women’s rights in Denmark.

In furtherance of these efforts, the Danish parliament amended provisions of the Act on Gender Equality. The legislation “provides for promotion of gender equality, including equal integration, equal influence and equality in all functions of society on the basis of women’s and men’s equal status.” ​​

Gender Wage Gap

In 2020, out of 3 million people who registered in the Danish labor force, females made up 47%. The increased influx of women’s participation in the workforce demonstrates that females have strong representation in the labor market.

Despite this increase in labor participation, Denmark has stalled in its efforts to reduce gender wage gap differences. The Global Gender Gap Report for 2021 revealed a 38% income gap between men and women.

Experts attribute inequality in pay to gender segregation in labor participation. Danish women are more likely to hold public-sector jobs “while men are more likely to work in the private sector” and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs.

The Public Servant Reform Act of 1969 paved the way for an unequal labor market as well. This law assigned job sectors that female employees commonly dominate, such as nursing, childcare and education, to lower wages than jobs that are more male-dominated, such as law enforcement. Furthermore, working long hours and employment pressures exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the disparity in income and the gains achieved in enhancing women’s rights in Denmark.

Parental Leave

Denmark has a flexible parental leave system as do neighboring Nordic countries Sweden and Norway. In 2019, Denmark’s Parliament expanded parental leave to “24 weeks of leave per parent, 13 of which are transferable, for a total of 48 weeks of leave combined.” This is a significant departure from the previous policy of 32 total weeks of paid leave. Parents receive entitlements to a combined parental leave benefit for 52 weeks. To qualify for parental leave benefits, certain employment duration requirements are necessary. The expanded parental leave will provide equal opportunities to integrate work and life balance for parents.

Looking Ahead

Danish society places a high value on equal opportunities for women with the election of two female prime ministers, but the work to achieve complete gender equality in Denmark is far from accomplished, more so with the income inequality challenge. The Danish government, in cooperation with civil society and the private sector, can improve women’s rights by creating safe spaces and repealing the 1969 Civil Service Reform Act to ensure equal pay for equal work. It is important for countries to leverage policies and programs that provide equal opportunities for men and women to achieve gender parity for a peaceful and prosperous world.

– Sylvia Eimieho
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in France
The gender wage gap impacts women all over the world. According to USB Management Review, the gender wage gap is “the difference in wages between men and women for the same type of work or work of equal value.” With women bearing the brunt of the gender wage gap, the gender wage gap presents a barrier to gender equality, the progression of women and global poverty reduction overall. Although the Government of France has made progress in the realm of gender equality, the gender wage gap in France still puts female citizens at a notable disadvantage.

The Gender Wage Gap in France and Europe Overall

In 2018, the gender wage gap in France stood at 15.2%, slightly below the European average of 16.2% in the same year. Essentially, this statistic means that men in France earned 15.2% more than women for work of the same nature. In 2019, the European average wage gap saw improvement, dropping to 14.1% while France saw a rise in the gender wage gap, climbing to 16.5%, the 10th highest in the European Union. Estonia had the highest gender wage gap at 21.7% while Luxembourg had the lowest at just 1.3%. The feminist French newsletter, Les Glorieuses, explained that, in 2021, the gender wage gap in France essentially equated to women working without pay from November 3, 2021.

Contributing Factors to the Gender Wage Gap in France

Women tend to unfairly shoulder the burden of child care and household responsibilities, which is why 80% of women’s employment in France falls within the part-time job sector in an attempt to balance all these responsibilities. Overall, women spend a significant amount of time on unpaid work, such as household chores, in comparison to men. When women give birth to their first child, typically between 30 and 35, differences in pay become even more apparent. In addition, maternity leave tends to unfairly impact the career progression of women, placing them at another disadvantage for promotions.

Women in the Workplace

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 ranks France 16th globally for its gender pay gap size. The result is a consequence of low scoring in the category of Economic Participation and Opportunity for women in France, taking the 58th rank in this category globally.

In France, “women only hold 34.6% of senior and managerial positions,” which is a lower rate than the United Kingdom at 36.8% and the U.S. at 42%. Yet, France and 25 other nations take first place rankings in regard to “educational attainment for women.” Only a single company “out of France’s 40 largest companies” has a female running it — Engie, a utility company with CEO Catherine MacGregor at the helm.

Progress for Women in France’s Workplace

France passed the Cope-Zimmermann law 11 years ago, which established “quotas for the gender balance of company boards, with the aim of reaching a minimum representation of 40% for each gender.” The law mandated that within three years of its passing, “20% of a company’s board members must be women, rising to 40% within the following six years.” This law applied only to certain companies within specific turnover and employee thresholds. Currently, France is taking the global lead in this regard, with 43% of women’s representation in company boards. In comparison, the United Kingdom has a 36% representation in this regard while Sweden has 35%.

In response to the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on women, the “European Commission has published a drafted law that would force companies with [more than] 250 employees to publicly release annual statistics on their employees’ salaries.” The same disclosure is applicable for smaller-scale companies, “though only upon request by an employee and not to the public.” These pay transparency reports would help fight the gender wage gap. For the draft to take effect, it requires “a majority vote by the European Parliament and a unanimous agreement among all 27 member states’ governments.”

The ongoing efforts to close the gender wage in France and dismantle gender inequality barriers allow women to see the same advancement and progression as their male counterparts.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in JapanJapan has the world’s third-largest economy by gross domestic product (GDP). Despite this, there is a significant gender wage gap in Japan. Women face an uphill challenge entering the Japanese labor market. Gender discrimination and less representation in regular employment results in diminished wages for women in comparison to their male counterparts. Due to this, many single women experience economic hardship. Fortunately, the Japanese government has made the gender wage gap a key focus. Launched in December 2020, the Fifth Basic Plan for Gender Equality sets forward various updated policies that promise to make significant headway in closing the gap.

The Gender Wage Gap

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), women employed in Japan earn an average of 22.5% less than men. In addition, Japan’s gender wage gap stood at 24.5% in 2018. Further, the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report ranks Japan 120th out of 156 countries.

A combination of factors contributes to the wage gap. Employed women are likely to earn less than their male counterparts partly due to less representation in management. In addition, more women than men work in “non-regular” positions. These positions offer less compensation and fewer job protections than “regular” jobs. Women who leave the regular workforce for childrearing and attempt to reenter the labor market encounter limited opportunities for regular employment. That, of course, hurts their earning potential. This trend is particularly concerning among women raising children on their own.

High Poverty Despite More Mothers in Labor Force

Interestingly, at 85%, there are more Japanese single mothers in the labor force than any other OECD member nation. Despite this, the poverty rate of these single-parent families is an alarming 56%. In Japan, joint custody does not legally exist. Further, women are more often financially responsible for their children. With their weak economic power and a constrained social safety net, single mothers endure difficulties escaping poverty.

Addressing Wage Disparity

The disparity in the gender wage gap in Japan proves to be a difficult issue to address. In a report that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga received, the Japanese Council for Gender Equality recommended that he push back previous targets to have 30% of women in managerial and political positions by up to 10 years. “We need to do introspection on the fact that the plan has not sufficiently progressed and undertake an effort,” Suga said after reading the Council’s report.

The Fifth Basic Plan for Gender Equality

Regardless of the failure to meet targets and the need to delay the targets, there is a strong will among the nation’s political leaders to address this issue. In 2020, the Japanese government put forward a new set of objectives that call for gender equity through the Fifth Basic Plan for Gender Equality.

Specifically, the plan asks political parties to promote more female candidates for political offices and judgeships. It asks corporations to add females into top leadership roles. The expectation is that more gender equity at the top levels will produce norms and policies that increase opportunity in the Japanese labor market for women.

Continuous effort on the part of policymakers makes the gender equality gap a high-priority issue going forward. The multi-faceted approach of the Fifth Basic Plan for Gender Equality looks to address the underpinning social, political and economic problems that produce disparate wages among men and women. If successful, the plan will reduce the risk of poverty among women.

– Gonzalo Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in IcelandIceland is a small island nation, home to about 366,000 people, situated in the North Atlantic Ocean between Greenland and Norway. Owing partly to its small size, Iceland has become a world leader in various social indicators, such as gender equality and poverty reduction. For the 12th year in a row, Iceland was crowned the most gender-equal country in the world by the World Economic Forum in its 2021 Global Gender Gap Report. Despite this top ranking, it is still necessary to fully close the gender wage gap in Iceland, and in turn, alleviate remaining poverty within the nation.

Poverty in Iceland

The gender wage gap, no matter how small, can have a significant impact on one’s vulnerability to poverty. The gap between the earnings of men and women means that pay cuts, unemployment and economic downturns more dramatically impact women, which can and have historically led to increases in poverty in Iceland.

The poverty rate in Iceland is much lower in comparison to its Nordic neighbors, with about 9% of Icelanders earning an income that falls below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold in 2018. In other Nordic countries, this figure sits “between 12% and 16.4%” while the average in the European Union stands at 21.9% in 2020.

Another indicator of poverty, the unemployment rate, is also very low in Iceland, standing at 3.9% in 2019. Further, there is little disparity between the unemployment rate for men and for women. However, there remains a difference in the employment rate, with 88% of working-age men having a paid job in comparison to 83% of women. This difference links to roles of childcare and housekeeping, which traditionally fall on women. However, Iceland has robust subsidized childcare policies, which lessen the burden of traditional gender roles and allow women to participate in the labor force more freely.

The Gender Wage Gap in Iceland

The Global Gender Gap Report finds that Iceland has closed 89.2% of its gender wage gap as of 2021, taking the lead as the most gender-equal country in the world. There is a strong culture around social safety nets and welfare in Iceland, ensuring that gender and income inequalities are minimal. According to the OECD Better Life Index, wage bargaining in Iceland helps promote income inequality and decrease poverty rates. In addition to this, the government has implemented several policies in recent years with the intention of addressing the gender wage gap in Iceland.

Gender Equality Policies in Iceland

First, and most well-known, is the Equal Pay Certification, the first policy of its kind in the world. This policy, which went into effect in 2018, requires all companies with 25 or more employees to provide annual proof of equal pay for men and women. The policy previously only required companies to disclose information on wages, but the government expanded it to further increase job satisfaction and transparency in the pay system. This one-of-a-kind policy is making strides to close what is remaining of the gender wage gap in Iceland.

Iceland also requires a near equal gender balance on the boards of all publicly traded companies and requires a certain percentage of employees to be of each gender. All companies with 25 or more employees must also disclose the gender composition of their employees — an initiative aimed at pressuring companies to improve gender equality in the workplace. While this policy does not directly address the gender wage gap, it is a step in ensuring overall gender equality that is likely to promote equal pay.

Looking Ahead

All in all, the Icelandic government has shown success in continuously narrowing the gender wage gap through the implementation of these policies. This success allows the nation to stand as a world leader in gender equality. Despite this, there is still room for progress, especially as Iceland’s demographics change and the country struggles with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistics Iceland reports that immigrants represented 15.2% of the population in Iceland in 2020 — a figure that is consistently growing. Immigrants are at greater risk of poverty in Iceland because they are “less likely to be employed” compared to “their native-born counterparts.” Furthermore, the gender wage gap disproportionately impacts immigrant women, therefore, as the immigrant population in Iceland increases, strong gender equality policies remain important.

Another threat to narrowing the gender wage gap in Iceland is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has stalled progress in gender equality and poverty eradication worldwide. In Iceland, like in all countries where women face a double burden of working while caring for children and the household, lockdowns and social distancing force more women to stay home from work. These pandemic effects may threaten to reverse progress in gender wage gap policies. However, there is hope that the constant and unyielding work of the Icelandic government will ensure progress for years to come.

– Emma Tkacz
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in Pakistan
The gender wage gap exists across a multitude of nations, sectors and professions, disproportionality affecting low-income women. Pakistan is the epicenter of this inequity. According to the Global Wage Report 2018/19 (ILO), women in Pakistan earn 34% less than men on average. The same report also found women in Pakistan constitute 90% of the bottom 1% of wage earners in the country. Below are ways to bridge the gender wage gap in Pakistan.

Increased Access to Education

Half of the women in Pakistan have not attended school and 90% of women do not have a post-secondary education. This education gap is detrimental to the gender wage gap in Pakistan as the pay of women with post-secondary education increases threefold in comparison to women with just primary education.

The Zindagi Trust is working to improve girls’ education in Pakistan on the grassroots level by improving the infrastructure, academic innovation and quality of government schools. It has transformed two schools and thus changed the lives of more than 2,500 young girls who otherwise would have dropped out of primary school.

Decreasing Unpaid Care Work

Unpaid care work and domestic work are non-market, unpaid activities carried out in households, such as care of persons, cooking, cleaning or fetching water. These time commitments are often not quantitative, and therefore, go overlooked. According to McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, unpaid care work globally is worth around $10 trillion a year.

Not only does unpaid care work not compensate women for their work but it is so time-consuming that women do not have the time to focus on gaining skills and pursuing economic opportunities. Gender norms further this structure due to the expectation that women must take care of the home.

One way to ease the impacts of unpaid care work is by reducing hazardous tasks, such as cooking with unsafe fuel sources. Jaan Pakistan is working to reduce open flame cooking in rural Pakistan. It has sold nearly 1,500 units to date and hopes to sell 1 million cookstoves across off-grid Pakistan by 2025.

Increased Representation in STEM Fields

Women currently make up less than 18% of STEM professionals in Pakistan. One can attribute this gap to the literacy rate of women and the societal pressure for women to pursue a more female-dominated field. The literacy rate for women is 47% in comparison to 71% for men, which further exacerbates the gender wage gap in Pakistan. The rate of workplace harassment only adds to the inability of employers to meet the needs of educated and qualified women and deters women from contributing to STEM fields.

According to a report of Pakistan’s National Commissioner of Children and Women, around 93% of Pakistani women had experienced sexual violence and harassment in public spaces or workplaces in their lifetimes. Private sector organizations such as Women Engineer’s Pakistan are working to increase the representation of women in STEM fields by connecting college girls to a network of 1,988 women engineers. These mentorship resources build a community of women in STEM in Pakistan and provide support and encouragement. It has helped more than 4,000 college students.

In order to combat workplace harassment, U.N. Women and the Office of the Ombudsperson KP in Pakistan joined together to effectively implement and monitor current laws to address harassment at the workplace. It has developed a Toolkit on “Understanding Sexual Harassment, Legal Provisions, Roles of Duty Bearers and Rights Holders.” Officially launched on June 25, 2020, the Toolkit “provides a comprehensive resource to train and build the capacity of inquiry committee members and other stakeholders on the law and redressal mechanisms for dispensation of justice to the complainants.”

The gender wage gap in Pakistan exists due to the traditional structures in place, but with the support of local and international nonprofits, there are new solutions and resources to successfully implement them.

– Imaan Chaudhry
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Gender Wage Gap In Namibia
Namibia ranks sixth in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2021, the highest-ranked African country for bridging the gap between women and men economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment measure. In just nine years, Namibia has climbed 35 spots, excelling past Canada and the United States in the Global Gender Gap Report. A closer look at Namibia’s history provides insight into actions taken to bridge this gap and how the gender wage gap in Namibia still plays a role in society today.

Post-Independence Namibia Focuses on Gender Equality

Prior to Namibia gaining independence, many considered women the property of men. When Namibia gained full independence from South Africa in 1990, it implemented numerous changes aimed at improving gender equality, as well as equality for all, in the new constitution. Article 10 states that “[n]o persons shall be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, color, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status,” emphasizing Namibia’s commitment to equality.

Also, the Married Persons Equality Act became law in 1996. The act allows women to sign contracts, register a property in their name and act as directors of companies. Women in Namibia hold about 44% of the managerial professions.

In the year 2013, “Namibia’s ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO),” implemented a 50/50 gender policy that requires “equal representation of men and women” in parliament. At the time of the policy creation, women filled only 25% of the positions in parliament. Currently, women occupy 44% of the seats in parliament, proving that the gender policy has been effective in adding more women to work in government roles. The government’s adoption of these policies aid in creating a more inclusive environment for women in Namibia, particularly in political and urban settings.

More Women Seek an Education

Women in Namibia are leading their male counterparts in post-secondary education with a tertiary education enrollment rate of 30% for women and 15% for men. At the largest university in Namibia, the University of Namibia (UNAM), 64% of the students are women while only 36% are men. Many women continue on to obtain their master’s degrees or doctoral degrees. Once out of school, the labor force participation rate for women drops below men at 57% and 64% respectively. Even though more women seek secondary education than men, women earn less than men in several industries.

While the gender wage gap in Namibia is less prominent than that of many other countries, the distribution of wealth is immensely unequal. According to the Gini index, which measures the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income, Namibia ranks second-highest in comparison to all other countries in the world. Namibia has one of the highest Gini index ratings because of its high unemployment rate, with women more likely to experience unemployment. About 64% of Namibians survive on less than $5.55 per person per day, which equates to slightly more than $2,000 a year. The average amount U.S. citizens spend on a summer vacation is roughly the same.

Namibians Continue to Reach for Gender Equality

Much like other patriarchal societies, when women and men reach for equality, there are often roadblocks along the way. While women in Namibia now occupy 44% of the positions in parliament, they are still shy of the 50% goal of the 50/50 gender policy. The gender wage gap in Namibia has narrowed significantly, but there is still massive inequality concerning family income distribution. There is also an underlying dialogue in Namibia that women are inferior to men. Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent due to societal and cultural norms. In fact, among the age group of 15 to 49, 28% of women and 22% of men in Namibia believe a husband beating his wife as a form of discipline constitutes a justifiable act. These beliefs contribute to a culture of gender inequality, which often proliferates inequalities in the workplace and perpetuates traditional gender roles.

Fortunately, the government is continuing to implement policies beneficial to gender equality. Additionally, women are pursuing secondary education at astounding rates, which is crucial in combating gender-based disparities as well as decreasing the gender wage gap in Namibia.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

5-initiatives-improving-the-gender-wage-gap-in-ghana
Despite great progress in economic growth and poverty reduction, the gender wage gap in Ghana shows the distribution of these benefits remains unequal. A significant portion of Ghana’s labor market is in the low-paying informal sector, where the most vulnerable people, women and children, find themselves. In fact, women earn less than 30% of what men earn — Ghana is one of just two countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region to experience gaps at that extreme. The wage gap is largely a result of systemic barriers in terms of access to health care and education as well as social norms regarding women’s roles in the workforce and household.

About the Wage Gap in Ghana

More than 23% of the Ghanaian population lives below the poverty line, according to the U.N. Women Data Hub. Most schools lack proper facilities and information on menstrual hygiene for their female students, ultimately contributing to frequent absences and dropouts.

In lower-income households, where financial constraints are prevalent, women often sacrifice their education so they can seek work to support their families. Women and girls spend 14% of their time on unpaid care and domestic work. Due to traditional social norms, some girls in Ghana’s rural areas find themselves in marriage or unions from as young as 18, which typically prevents them from pursuing an education or better-paying jobs. In light of this, there are several initiatives working to reduce the gender wage gap in Ghana and empower women.

The Soronko Academy

The Soronko Academy is an information and communications technology development center in Ghana. Its main focus is equipping women and girls with the technical and soft skills needed to attain better-paying jobs. Women and girls in underprivileged communities learn new modern skills such as branding, graphic design, coding, digital marketing and app development.

The Soronko Academy also helps young entrepreneurs build a technical edge around their website development and social media management. Classes and programs start from as early as 5 years old, even working with schools to integrate coding into their curriculums. Founded in 2017, the Soronko Academy has trained more than 20,000 women in a dozen or so regions across Ghana.

Solidaridad

Solidaridad is a global organization working directly with communities to create fair and sustainable supply chains. In Ghana, small-scale mining employs roughly a million people, with women making up nearly half the workers engaging in informal mining.

With pollution and other unsafe working conditions, Solidaridad’s project aims to improve the financial and social position of women in Ghana’s small gold mining communities. It supports 130 women by introducing village savings and loan associations and external funding for business support while also hosting discussions with women and men on household and business roles for women.

The banking associations receive funding from Solidaridad’s project partner Kering, the owner of fashion brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga, and serve as a means to boost local entrepreneurial endeavors, reducing reliance on bank loans. This project also offers training on responsible mining and leadership skills.

Global Partnership for Education

The Global Partnership for Education is a global fund dedicated to improving education in developing nations. Together since 2004, the partnership has more recently provided the Ghanaian government $1.5 million in grant support for its COVID-19 learning response.

Its active presence in Ghana is an attempt to prevent already-present gender inequalities from continuing into the next generation. It tackles gender barriers in several ways: supporting public awareness campaigns, building schools near communities and also providing for proper menstrual hygiene management.

The partnership also works with the Ghanaian government to identify and address gender barriers in the education system. In fact, its educational programs have boasted considerable success when it comes to the number of young girls completing primary school — now at nearly 95%.

UN Women in Ghana

U.N. Women in Ghana works with the government and its various departments, like the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, to make gender concerns, such as the wage gap, part of the national development process.

The organization also works with non-governmental organizations and other private sector groups to promote gender equality. To execute this, U.N. Women has numerous active programs, including one addressing the link between HIV and the financial effects it has on women and girls, like the cost of treatment. Oftentimes after divorce, women end up without any assets to support themselves and pay for treatment.

The organization also advocates for property and inheritance rights to offer women some form of protection. U.N. Women also works on economically empowering women by introducing small-scale farmers to good agricultural practices in hopes of reducing post-harvest losses. Additionally, the group works in the north and north of the Nkwanta district to enhance the leadership skills of adolescent girls.

Alliance for African Women Initiative

Founded in 2006, the Alliance for African Women Initiative is a grassroots organization fighting to reduce the gender gap by empowering women and children in Ghana. Its livelihood project seeks to enhance the financial independence of women to help families rise above the poverty line. The initiative also provides workshops and training programs intended to help women with all things business and personal finance, teaching bookkeeping and business skills as well as commercial consultancy and management. The initiative provides opportunities for women to connect and share ideas within its network.

Traditionally, the livelihood project creates its own small savings accounts because some women cannot afford to open saving accounts at banks. Then, after the training and workshops, women receive small loans to either expand their businesses or invest in new ones. More than 2,100 women have attended these programs and about 150 have received loans to start up their own businesses.

These five initiatives are attempting to take the steps needed to build an equal system for men and women. They are also showing the many intricacies of solving an issue, such as the gender wage gap, and that the solution is much more than just providing employment opportunities.

– Owen R. Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

gender wage gap in germanyData from May 2019 indicates that German women receive an average of 21% less wages than German men. Germany holds one of the largest gender pay gaps in the European Union, a gap that has since widened due to COVID-19.  As a consequence of the gender wage gap in Germany, German women endure poverty at a higher rate than German men. However, recent policies, lawmaking proposals and continued strong stimulus provide hope and solutions for a future of gender equality within Germany’s workforce.

The Gender Wage Gap in Germany

Despite the presence of Germany’s long-standing female chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the country’s overall reputation of upholding socially progressive policies, Germany holds the third-largest pay gap in the European Union as of 2017, ranking just behind Estonia and the Czech Republic. As of March 15, 2019, for every two lawmakers in Germany’s parliament, there exists only one female.

These pay gap inequalities force German women into poverty at a rate disproportional to men in Germany, much like the rest of the world. According to the European Union’s statistics office, 7.1 million German women faced poverty in 2017 compared to 6.1 million men. Furthermore, German women face a 16.6% risk of falling into poverty compared to a 15.2% risk for men, according to a 2021 report.

The correlation of a gender pay gap and poverty exists on an international scale as well. On September 14, 2020, the U.N. reported a global gender pay gap of 16%, meaning that female employees earn 84% of the amount their male equivalents earn globally. The global gender wage gap is especially divisive for women of color, immigrant women and mothers.

COVID-19 and Pay Inequality

According to a U.N. estimate on September 2, 2020, the U.N. expects the poverty rate for women to increase by  9.1% due to COVID-19. Germany is no exception to this global prediction. According to a Reuters report from May 14, 2020, 27% of women in Germany have had to reduce their working hours for child care purposes. In contrast, this percentage is more than the reported 16% of men (in households with at least one child younger than 14) who had to cut their working hours.

In addition, Reuters reports that this disparity is more likely in households with low or medium incomes rather than higher incomes. According to a BBC poll, German women reported facing higher financial impacts of COVID-19 than men. Roughly 32% of German women reported experiencing financial impacts of the novel coronavirus compared with 24% of men.

Closing the Gap

As the gender wage gap increases with the effects of COVID-19 both across the world and throughout Germany, hope comes in the form of advocacy, legislation and awareness. On March 4, 2021, the European Union proposed a law to compel companies to close gender pay gaps. The law also allows candidates access to salary information during interviews.

The law goes as far as imposing possible sanctions on companies that fail to comply. Under this proposed law, women employees can challenge employers when not equally compensated. The challenges then go through independent monitors with the goal to seek proper payment or treatment of all female employees.

Germany’s Successes

Additionally, Germany’s consistent social stimulus throughout 2020 and into 2021 provided great economic protections for the country as a whole. Germany excels in stimulus protections and aid when compared to the majority of the world. According to The New York Times, when the primary jobholder in a family of two parents and two children loses a job in the United States, the family retains 28% of their previous income. Contrastingly, the same family would maintain 75% of their income in Germany. The New York Times describes this as a “reflection of the country’s far more generous social safety net,” listing this outcome as one of the many benefits of strong, continued economic stimulus.

Overall, while Germany continues to combat the gender pay gap as an increasing number of women and girls enter poverty due to COVID-19, recent policies surrounding transparency, accountability and fiscal stimulus in the workforce provide much hope for the future.

Lillian Ellis
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in LuxembourgDespite centuries of movements, protests and advocacy, gender inequality continues to be one of the world’s oldest and most pervasive forms of inequality. The gender wage gap is a telling indicator of gender inequality. There is a link between these inequalities and poverty, and the gender wage gap in Luxembourg serves to illustrate this.

Global Gender Inequality

Issues regarding the gender wage gap go further than just compensation. In developing regions, 75% of women work in the informal sector. Informal jobs are often not properly regulated, with informal workers lacking legal rights, protections and employment contracts while earning insufficient living wages. Issues regarding gender inequalities are more pressing than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic both accentuated and exacerbated persistent gender issues. During the pandemic, domestic violence — physical, sexual and psychological — increased drastically across the globe. Furthermore, women make up 70% of health and social workers, making the majority of essential frontline workers female.

The Link Between Gender Inequality and Poverty

According to the World Bank, the world loses $160 trillion in wealth due to the gender wage gap. Increasing economic empowerment for women will improve the economy for everyone. Furthermore, more spending power for women will cause a massive boost to the economy as a whole. When women’s employment rises, absolute poverty rates decline. In contrast, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries saw increases in poverty where trends in gender equality were “uneven and stalled.”

Quentin Wodon, a lead economist at the World Bank, states, “Human capital wealth accounts for two-thirds of the global changing wealth of nations, well ahead of natural and other forms of capital.” Wodon says further, “Because women earn less than men, human capital wealth worldwide is about 20% lower than it could be.”

Luxembourg’s Gender Wage Gap

The gender wage gap in Luxembourg stands at only 1.4%. In recent years, addressing the gender wage gap and all other forms of gender inequality have become a priority for the public policy agenda. In 2015, Luxembourg established the Ministry of Equality between Women and Men. Unlike any other ministry in the EU, its sole focus surrounds gender equality. The Luxembourg Law of December 15, 2016, makes any discrepancies in compensation for men and women completing the same task or work of equal value illegal.

Although Luxembourg boasts the narrowest gender wage gap in Europe, there is still room for improvement. The 2016 law protects the legal rights of women in the workplace, but it does not necessarily empower them to become involved. The amount of women in Luxembourg’s workforce has risen in recent years; however, there are still far fewer women in the workforce than men.

Out of every 100 employed Luxembourgers, there are only 38 women for every 62 men. A study in 2018 showed that female workers were often more qualified than their male counterparts. About 44% of women had college degrees, while only 35% of men have the same credentials. In addition to closing the remaining gap, Luxembourg also needs to focus on empowering women to participate in the economy. True gender equality will not be met until more women join the workforce.

The digital sector has significant room for improvement regarding female participation. Taina Bofferding, the minister of equality in Luxembourg, is currently focusing on reducing the gender gap in the digital sector. As the world moves toward a digital future, Bofferding believes that female presence in the digital professional field is crucial to closing the remaining gender wage gap in Luxembourg.

Luxembourg’s government believes that concrete measures and targeted action are the reason for the nation’s narrow gender wage gap. There are more than 120 equal opportunity representatives in the public sector specifically tasked with protecting both women and men in the workplace. Along with the smallest gender wage gap in Europe, Luxembourg also enjoys some of the highest living standards in the world. With a GDP per capita of $124,591 in 2020, Luxembourg is the wealthiest EU country per capita.

Looking to the Future

The progress of the gender wage gap in Luxembourg does not reflect the progress of the rest of the world. Globally, women earn 24% less than their male counterparts, and at the current level of advancement, the world will not see equality until 2191.

The wealth surrounding the small gender wage gap in Luxembourg is one example of the direct relationship between gender inequality and poverty. Gender inequalities and poverty tend to diminish together. Luxembourg’s success emphasizes the importance of laws that can “enforce pay equity and can effectively root out wage discrepancies and ensure better frameworks are in place to achieve greater equality in the workplace.”

– Ella LeRoy
Photo: Unsplash

United Kingdom's Gender Wage Gap
The gender pay gap, or the difference in pay between men and women, has been under scrutiny across the globe for decades with the rise of feminist movements. The United Kingdom has received a lot of backlash since a report concerning unequal pay underwent publication in 2016. The Economic Policy Institute cited that women earned only 79 cents for every dollar that a man earned. However, the United Kingdom’s gender wage gap is slowly closing under the newly introduced gender pay gap transparency regulations.

Gender Pay Gap Transparency Regulations

In early 2017, the U.K.’s Equality and Human Rights Commission introduced a new practice in the United Kingdom, which required that all companies with more than 250 employees be honest and open about gender pay inequalities. Within this regulation, businesses must post the difference in payment between their male and female employees and have the data publicly available for at least three years. Companies that do not comply may undergo investigation and be subject to heavy fines.

The Society for Human Resource Management stated that these reports are “calling for more attention” to the U.K.’s gender wage gap and encourage “tracking the metric over time” to assure that progress is occurring. In turn, this makes companies aware of income inequality. The businesses also work to protect their reputation in a growing field of competitors.

Concerns arise because COVID-19 could very well increase the gender wage gap. According to Ogletree Deakins, companies did not have to submit these reports by the April 2020 deadline. Before the pandemic, corporations had to submit their wage gap numbers by April. However, in 2021, businesses must post their inequality findings by a later deadline in October. Ogletree Deakins found that “By 24 March 2020, the day the government announced the suspension” of the April 2020 deadline for reporting, just  26% “of companies compelled to report had done so.”

While this resolve for the union seems fresh, U.K. efforts to reduce wage inequality began decades ago. In November 1970, the Equal Pay Act made wage differences based on gender in the U.K. illegal.

The Result of the Regulations

According to Statista, the gender wage gap has decreased by almost 3% since the regulations’ implementation. The reported inequality has also declined substantially from the U.K.’s highest point of wage imbalance at 27.5% in 1997. Now, with the current rate at 15.5% on average, citizens hope this rate will continue to drop.

However, in the part-time sector where wage gap statistics fall below 0%, the rate of inequality is on the rise from its all-time low in 2015. The U.K. parliament finds that women are more likely to take on these part-time occupations and experience wage inequality when they pass the age of 40. This wage inequality continues even in high-paying jobs.

Some countries within the U.K. have different pay gap rates than their sister nations. Northern Ireland has the lowest gender wage gap at -3%, while London has a pay difference of 13%. Despite any discrepancies, all nations within the U.K. have seen a significant decrease in the wage gap since the implementation of the transparency regulations.

The Reaction of Businesses

Many businesses have aligned with the legislation by creating new strategies to decrease the wage gap. The Society for Human Resources Management states that more than 65% of companies have started conducting research on pay inequality and 32% have started actively working to close the United Kingdom’s gender wage gap.

A popular law firm in the United Kingdom, McKinsey and Company, discussed its strategy in a 2019 announcement. The business declared that it would recruit more women into its firm, develop the talents of those recruited women and “shape the debate through rigorous research.” Other companies seem to be following suit.

Bloomberg stated that a U.K. hygiene and health production company, Reckitt Benckiser Group, has started paying women 6.1% more than men. The corporation condemned the pay gap via a report in 2021 and assured that it would continue to “address the issue.”

The Future

While it is uncertain whether the United Kingdom’s gender wage gap will ever truly disappear, many believe that the payment inequality statistics will continue to fall over time. The U.K. currently ranks fifth on the European Institute for Gender Equality Index, but expectations have determined that the region will improve its score as it did between 2005 and 2017, possibly surpassing other nations with its actions for fairness.

– Laken G. Kincaid
Photo: Flickr