International Women's Day: Gender pay gap will not close for 70 years if trends continue, UN says

Mothers are affected by a further pay gap, a report has revealed

Women will continue to be paid less than men for the next 70 years if the gender pay gap continues to reduce at the present rate, according to a report by a UN agency released ahead of International Women’s Day.

The document published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) comes 20 years after 189 countries adopted a blueprint to achieve equality for women in 12 critical areas, including health, education, employment, political participation and human rights.

The historic agreement marked the first time that the UN recognised a woman's right to control her own sexuality without coercion, and reaffirmed her right to decide whether and when to have children.

However, despite the agreement women still lack access to education, training, recruitment; have limited bargaining and decision-making power; and still shoulder responsibility for most unpaid care work.

And while women have slowly taken up more places in the global workplace since the 1995 Beijing Platform, the percentage that women earn in comparison to men has only crawled up by one point to 77 per cent.

The report also revealed that women across the world are also faced by a “motherhood pay gap”, over and above the gender pay gap, with women in developing countries suffering the most.

Meanwhile in many European countries, having more than one child deals a significant blow to a mother’s earning power.

British women are hit particularly hard, the report claims according to The Guardian, because the welfare state “emphasises individual freedom” and “provisions of day-care and after-school facilities enabling mothers to work full-time are lacking”. 

On top of the struggle to secure equal wages, women also mainly work in poor working conditions and low paid jobs, which often lack access to maternity protection, despite the motives of the Beijing Platform.

When a woman's professional career was considered, the ILO found that women own and manage over 30 per cent of all businesses, but tend to be concentrated in micro and small enterprises. Women also sit on 19 per cent of board seats globally, and only five per cent or less of the CEOs of the world’s largest corporations are women.

Speaking ahead of International Women's Day, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women, said in an interview with The Associated Press that not a single country has reached gender parity and equality.

She went on to lament that a girl born today will be an 81-year-old woman before she has the same chance as a man to be CEO of a company — and she will have to wait until she's 50-years-old to have an equal chance to lead a country.

The report also showed that while access to maternity protection has improved, many women still do not benefit from such provisions. The number of countries offering 14 weeks or more maternity leave has increased from 38 per cent to 51 per cent – amounting to more than 800 million women workers globally – but 41 per cent of all women still don’t have adequate maternity protection.

The report also highlighted that violence undermines a woman’s access to decent work, with as many as 35 per cent of all women are victims of physical and or sexual violence that affects their attendance at work.

However, the UN agency said it was positive that dozens more nations have signed up to agreements to stop gender discrimination since 1995.

Shauna Olney, Chief of the Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch of the ILO, mirrored Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka's concerns, and said: "The overriding conclusion 20 years on from Beijing is that despite marginal progress, we have years, even decades to go until women enjoy the same rights and benefits as men at work."

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