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What is International Equal Pay Day?

Numbers and notions about an important day

What is International Equal Pay Day? Numbers and notions about an important day

September 18th is International Equal Pay Day. Launched by the United Nations in 2020, this day aims to raise awareness of the difference in pay between men and women for equal positions, shining a spotlight on (very slow) efforts to achieve equality.

The United Nations declaration on the topic

The official United Nations website says: "Achieving equal wage is an important milestone for human rights and gender equality. It takes the effort of the entire world community and more work remains to be done. The United Nations, including UN Women and the International Labour Organization (ILO) invites Members states and civil society, women’s and community-based organizations and feminist groups, as well as businesses and workers’ and employers’ organizations, to promote equal wage for work of equal value and the economic empowerment of women and girls."

The wage gap in numbers

The data speaks for itself. According to a study by Carolina Arragão for the Pew Research Centre, the so-called gender wage gap in the United States has remained constant for 20 years. In 2022, women earned 82 per cent of what men earned. In 2002, it was 80 per cent. An unfortunately resilient gap that widens when it comes to black women. According to the National Women's Law Centre, a black woman earns 67 cents for every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic white man.

An intersectional problem

The deeper one delves, the more and more nuanced problems emerge. For trans women, for example, the world of work can be unforgiving. According to a study published by McKinsey and Company in December 2021, trans people are twice as likely to be unemployed as men. The same is true for women with disabilities.

The numbers in Europe and Italy

In the European Union, women earn 13 per cent less than their male counterparts, and this figure has remained unchanged for about a decade. The European Equal Pay Directive only became official in May 2023. Obviously, the gap is based on deep-seated prejudices and depend on the still present influence of the patriarchal society in which the role of women is that of the angel of the household and the possibility of getting pregnant while working is seen as a problem. This is precisely why it must be fought. In Italy, the problem is even bigger. The gender wage gap is around 12.5 per cent. However, according to the latest report signed by Bankitalia, by the Ministry of Labour and by Anpal, the female employment rate in Italy is 55 per cent. The European average is 69 per cent.

The issue of invisible work

In addition it has always been taken for granted, but even more so since the Covid 19 pandemic, that women take care of the home and the family. To express this, the term "invisible work" is used, namely that of the housewife, the voluntary and continuous nanny-like and educator-like care work, the cleaning woman's work, which contributes to the overall psychological burden and it's usually undervalued and unpaid. Canada has introduced another international day for this, on April 3.

Team work's importance

Where European directives, UN appeals and individual company initiatives cannot reach, we act on our own, demanding what is rightfully ours without fear, advocating for transparency policies in the workplace and fighting for minority women. It's important to find allies, both among female colleagues and at home and in the family, who are willing to challenge themselves and help. Choosing companies and workplaces that are truly inclusive can also help, although unfortunately this is not always possible. Having the freedom of choice is also a privilege.