“It is a very significant pay gap,” says Hazel Brown, coordinator of the Network of Women NGOs. “The old boys network works particularly well in relation to employment and wages. It’s a historical situation and a cultural situation that does not value women’s work, whether in households or communities. Even if a position is occupied mostly by women, the pay and value attached to it is lower.”
On Sunday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar drew attention to disparity in pay levels experienced by the sexes. “There are still women getting less pay,” the Prime Minister told a rally held at Constantine Park, Macoya, as she unfurled plans of her administration ahead of the general election due this year.
According to the latest report of the Geneva-based NGO, the World Economic Forum, women in this country on average trail behind men in terms of earnings. The 2014 Global Gender Gap Report estimates that the average earned income of a woman in this country is US$21,455 or TT$135,167, while that of a man is US$37,911 or TT$238,839.
In other words, women earn about half of what men do, at a ratio of about 0.57 (the score of 1 being perfect equality). The result is this country ranks 91 out of 142 countries in terms of estimated earned income equality. “This is an average of almost half of a man’s pay,” Brown said. “That is not because there are not some women earning high levels, but just many more women at the lower end of the pay scales than there are men. It is a very significant gap given the average participation rate of females in the labour market.”
About 3,000 women employed with the Unemployment Relief Programme have also been paid less than their male counterparts for years, Minister of State in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure Stacy Roopnarine said last September as she announced a pay raise from $58 a day to $69 a day under the provisions of Budget 2015. But Browne yesterday said long-term cultural factors may account for the pay gap. “In order to reduce the gap many more women have to be in higher paid jobs,” Brown said. “The first thing that is required is a national gender policy. Also, the attempts through the Central Statistical Office to put a value on what women do is an important part.” Education sector reform is also needed, she said, to stop gender assumptions from directing females into certain professions.
“The education system directs girls into careers populated mainly by women and which was, therefore, lower paid,” Brown said. “We need to have the mentors and the role models of women in higher paid jobs and occupations.” Brown also said it is for women to better mobilise to compete with the old boys network.
(See Page 8)