Arab States pledge to reduce gender pay gap in the region

19 Dec 2019

The joint ILO, UN Women & OECD Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) saw high-level offcials from across the Arab States reigion commit to pay equity between women and men

Government, business and civil society representatives from ten countries across the Arab region met in Amman to learn more about the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) and pledge their support to promoting pay equity between women and men.

EPIC was launched in September 2017 by the International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Women, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as a global forum to galvanize commitment and action of the global community to reduce the persisting gender pay gap.

Speaking at the event, Minister of Labour, H.E. Mr Nidal Al Batayneh, stated that Jordan is committed to promoting women’s labour force participation and, in this regard, had recently approved several amendments to the labour law which enshrine the principle of pay equity and provide measures to support working parents through childcare, paternity leave and flexible work arrangements.

H.E. Abeer Dabaneh, Coordinator of Human Rights at the Prime Minister’s Office said the government of Jordan was committed to implementing ILO conventions and other international instruments on gender equality that it had ratified, including on equal remuneration for work of equal value, and would look into ratifying news ones including the new convention, C190 – Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, 2019

Dr. Salma Nims, Chairperson of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, explained that it was precisely because of measures such as lobbying for a gender responsive labour law reform including the principle of equal pay for work of equal value that Jordan was invited to become a Member of the Steering Committee of the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) and that being part of such a platform provides the opportunity “where we can learn from others and share our experiences. Since many issues and objectives are common across our countries, today’s launch provides the opportunity for other Arab countries to join EPIC and to strengthen our resolve to achieve pay equity in the Arab region.”

Through two days of expert discussions and exchange of good practices, participants at the event appreciated the experiences shared by EPIC member governments such as Jordan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom including laws to They helped highlight issues of pay discrimination, occupational segregation and depressed wages in jobs that women traditionally do while also showcasing proactive policies to address such issues.

The International Organization of Employers and the International Trade Union Confederation, also members of EPIC, participated in the discussions sharing examples of how employers and workers’ organizations can promote pay equity. Experts on gender equality, wages, and women’s economic empowerment, shared statistics from the region on the gender pay gap, what it measures and how it is calculated.

H.E. Tone Allers, Norway’s Ambassador to Jordan emphasized the importance of gender equality as human right and key to economic growth and shared examples from Norway showing how reducing the gender pay gap had helped achieve the country’s social and economic development goals.

Speaking at the event, H.E. Erik Ullenhag, Sweden’s Ambassador to Jordan underscored that “Sweden has a feminist foreign policy and closing the gender pay gap is a top priority for Sweden. Sweden will continue to support UN Women, ILO and all the stakeholders to accelerate the work on SDG 8 and achieve the EPIC agenda”.

Mr. Frank Hagemann, Deputy Regional Director of the ILO Regional Office for the Arab States explained that though the principle of equal pay for work of equal value formed part of the ILO Constitution drawn up in 1919, and is reflected in the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 it has not been easy to implement on ground. “Countries have made progress on equal pay for equal work, but we are still lagging behind when it comes to realizing it in practice. This is why, in many countries, mechanics can earn more than nurses, or security guards more than child carers. Women and men must be paid the same, not only if they are doing the same job, but also if they are doing work that is similar in terms of skills and responsibility, but in different industries.”

With equal pay for work of equal value a key element of global normative frameworks, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Ms. Janneke van der Graaff-Kukler, Deputy Regional Director of the UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States highlighted the crucial role of the private sector in closing the gender pay gap. “The private sector has the responsibility to support men and women equally in their career growth, including by implementing business standards that promote equal pay for work of equal value, advance women’s leadership in the workplace and support child and elderly care. The Women’s Empowerment Principles provide an integrated framework for businesses to benchmark their progress in this regard.”

Representatives from governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations made pledges. Iraq committed to establishing minimum wages in sectors where women work in large numbers, Egypt and the occupied Palestinian territories committed to conducting social dialogue to promote equitable labour policies including on pay equity, UAE committed to strengthening the existing Law on Equal Wages, and Tunisia expressed its intention to join the Equal Pay International Coalition.

At the global level, EPIC’s membership stands at 16 governments, including Jordan from the Arab region; the International Organization of Employers, the International Trade Union Confederation, private sector companies, non-governmental organizations and UN entities.
The launch of EPIC in the Arab region was possible thanks to the generous support of the governments of Sweden and Norway.