Luxembourg supports the Equal Pay International Coalition
6 Apr 2021
Taina Bofferding, the Minister for Equality between women and men, explains why Luxembourg has decided to join the coalition and why gender equality matters to the country.
Why has equal pay for work of equal value become one of the priorities of the Luxembourg public policy agenda?
Equal pay for women and men is an essential factor in Luxembourg’s public policies to ensure that the work of all is recognised. When we commit ourselves to equality between women and men, there are several aspects for me as a socialist minister:
• the collective dimension with social justice to enable equal rights and solidarity between women and men; • the individual dimension with the recognition of the potential and talent of every person; • the economic dimension by encouraging women and men to study and ensuring that their skills and commitments are honoured in the labour market without making a difference between the genders; • the dimension of a societal project – we want an inclusive society in which all people flourish without being held back by gender stereotypes.
Ensuring equal pay for work of equal value is ultimately a way of implementing these convictions.
Why has Luxembourg joined the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC)?
Since 2016, Luxembourg has had an equal pay law as part of the Labour Code. Unequal pay has been made an offence. This means in concrete terms that equal pay must be respected by companies. Employees can voice their concerns and demand their rights to equal pay for work of equal value. This provides an important basis.
Secondly and additionally, we work on a daily basis with companies, staff delegations and social partner representatives to raise awareness and provide concrete tools for equal pay.
By joining EPIC, we are making a strong commitment to an equal and inclusive world of work. We hope to be able to exchange good practices to continue to move forward. It is through collaboration and the exchange of experience and expertise that we can ensure equal pay in the long term.
According to the latest data from the European Commission, Luxembourg has the smallest gender pay gap of the 27 EU Member States (it is 1.4%). Could you describe the path that has led to this result?
In recent years Luxembourg has been able to reduce the gender gap in gross hourly pay. The 2016 law strengthened the existing framework and re-launched discussions on the importance of equal pay. At the same time, work on the ground with companies has also been strengthened, in particular with the Ministry of Equality’s Positive Actions programme , which supports and certifies good practices in the area of equal treatment. The Ministry also makes software available free of charge to all companies to measure pay gaps.
In addition, I would like to highlight mechanisms that also serve equal pay:
• National mechanisms such as indexation of wages to the cost of living and regular adjustments to the social minimum wage.
• Collective agreements negotiated between the social partners which, according to the Labour Code, must include provisions for the application of the principle of equal pay for women and men.
Our commitments have thus borne fruit. At the same time, I would like to stress that equality between women and men at work is an ongoing process. It is necessary to regularly diagnose the situation, identify areas for improvement and give ourselves the means to act. In order to make equality a reality, I want to continue to work towards a better gender mix in economic decision-making, and above all to act on the phenomena of vertical and horizontal segregation.
Our education policies must serve to overcome gender stereotypes from the earliest age. The future is digital. It cannot be reserved for one gender. It is therefore important for me to encourage women and girls to find their place in the future professions of the digital sector.
What are the obstacles your country has faced in improving women’s income?
Equal treatment is an ongoing commitment. In recent years the percentage of women active in the labour market has increased significantly. But, as recent data from the national statistics office in Luxembourg show, out of 100 people in employment there are 38 women for every 62 men. This means that we must do more to encourage the potential of women and enable them to be and remain in employment. We need to prevent women from leaving the labour market altogether when they have a child.
In this way, we are working to support women and men to better reconcile work and private life. Part-time work is often taken by women, but very little by men. The Luxembourg government therefore supports a strong social policy to ensure that mothers and fathers can be involved in working life and in their family life. If we want to improve incomes, ensure pensions and avoid the risks of precariousness, we must continue to act on these elements.