"Equal Pay Day" is marked on different days in countries but the message is the same: women are paid less than men for equivalent work, and it's time to raise awareness of this gender pay gap.
In France, Equal Pay Day 2016 is being marked on 7 November. In the UK it's the 10th. That's the day when women effectively stop earning — they work the rest of the calendar year for free. That is of course just a metaphor but it's a way of symbolising the different earning power of men and women.
According to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics in the U.K., the gender pay gap is 19.2%. That is, women, on average, earn 19.2% less than men. This is not necessarily for doing exactly the same jobs. It reflects the work situation as a whole. Professions which are traditionally seen as women's professions tend to be less prestigious, and less well paid than men's.
Women are also more likely to work part-time, because they shoulder a disproportionate amount of caring for children, the sick and elderly. The lack of affordable childcare for children under five (school starting age) often results in families choosing for one parent – typically the lower earner, often the mother — to stay at home with small children. A recent study for the Trades Union Congress found that working mothers earn 11% less than childless women of the same age. And an American study found that not only are mothers disadvantaged, fathers actually benefit from fatherhood: they earn up to 13% more than childless men of the same age.
Even excluding part-time workers, the gender pay gap in the U.K. is 9.4%
It isn't all bad news. There has been progress, but it's glacially slow. When President Kennedy signed the 1963 Equal Pay Act, American women workers only earned 59 cents for every dollar paid to men. Today, that has increased to 79 cents. But campaigners say action is needed to speed the process up. The Fawcett Society, a charity which lobbies for gender equality, calculates that at the current rate of progress, it will be 62 years before wage parity is achieved in the U.K.
See our Webpicks for a simple video to introduce this topic.
Some countries, like the U.S.A., Belgium and Spain, mark Equal Pay Day in the spring rather than the winter. In 2017, Equal Pay Day will be on 4 April in the U.S.A. That is how far into the year a woman will have to work to have earned the same as a man earned in 2016. The good news? In 2016, Equal Pay Day was 12 April – eight days later.
> Equal Pay Day Video
> Collecting Statistics: Class Project on Gender Equality