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Addressing Gender-Pay Gap India: A Human Rights Perspective

The gender pay gap persists as a critical issue globally, reflecting systemic inequalities and discriminatory practices within societies. This research paper aims to explore the gender pay gap in India from a human rights perspective, examining its roots, implications, and potential remedies. By analyzing the socio- economic factors, cultural influences, and legal framework, this paper seeks to provide insights into the challenges and opportunities for bridging this gap and ensuring equal pay for equal work in India.

The persistent gender pay gap in India paints a stark picture of inequality and raises serious concerns about the country's commitment to human rights. Despite legal frameworks aimed at promoting gender equality, women continue to earn significantly less than men for work of equal value. This disparity not only affects women's economic independence but also impacts their health, education, and overall well- being.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that women on average continue to be paid about 20 per cent less than men across the world. There are large variations between countries, from a high of over 45 per cent to hardly any difference.

The gender pay gap is a measurable indicator of inequality between women and men. Most governments have legislated to guarantee equality of treatment between men and women in remuneration. The ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) is one of the most highly ratified conventions. Yet, the gender pay gap persists and the World Economic Forum estimates it will take 202 years to close the global gender pay gap, based on the trend observed over the past 12 years.

Meaning Of Equal Pay:

Equal pay means women and men have the right to receive equal remuneration for the same work, but it also means that women and men should get equal pay when they do work that is different but can be shown to be of equal value. This is where we see the really large pay women typically do is paid much less than similar types of work that men typically do, for example librarians and database managers. Both manage information but one is paid a lot more than the other.

Overview of the historical context and current status in India:
The gender pay gap in India, like in many parts of the world, has deep roots entrenched in historical, social, and economic factors. Its origins can be traced back to traditional gender roles, societal norms, and systemic biases prevalent for centuries.

Traditional Gender Roles:
Historically, India, like many other societies, had defined gender roles where men were predominantly seen as breadwinners while women were confined to domestic roles. This division of labor often translated into unequal pay or limited access to economic opportunities for women.

Colonial Legacy:
During the colonial era, gender disparities were further reinforced. British policies often marginalized women from formal employment and education, perpetuating inequality.

Current Status:
Persistent Wage Gap:
Despite progress in various spheres, the gender pay gap persists in India. On average, women in India earn significantly less than men across various sectors, with the gap varying based on region, industry, and socioeconomic factors.

Occupational Segregation:
Women are often concentrated in lower-paying and less prestigious occupations, contributing to the wage gap. This occupational segregation limits their access to higher-paying roles and leadership positions.

Education and Skill Disparities:
While strides have been made in female education, disparities persist, impacting women's access to higher-paying jobs requiring specialized skills or education.

Cultural Norms and Discrimination:
Societal expectations and norms continue to play a significant role in perpetuating the gender pay gap. Discriminatory practices, biases, and stereotypes against women in the workforce hinder their advancement and equal compensation.

Importance Of Addressing The Issue Of Gender Pay Gap From A Human Right Lens

Addressing the gender pay gap from a human rights perspective is crucial due to several key reasons:

Equal Opportunity:
Human rights affirm the principle of equality and non-discrimination. The gender pay gap directly contravenes this principle by allowing unequal compensation for equal work based solely on gender. Closing this gap aligns with the fundamental human right of equal opportunity and treatment.

Dignity and Respect:
Ensuring equal pay acknowledges the inherent dignity of every individual, regardless of gender. It respects their contributions, skills, and efforts, fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and respected for their work.

Economic Empowerment:
Fair remuneration is a fundamental aspect of economic empowerment. Women, when paid equally for their work, gain financial independence, which is essential for their well-being and agency in decision-making concerning their lives.

Social Justice:
The gender pay gap perpetuates broader social inequalities. It often intersects with other forms of discrimination based on race, caste, class, or ethnicity, exacerbating the marginalization of certain groups. Addressing pay disparities is crucial for achieving social justice and equality for all.

Fulfillment of Human Rights Obligations:
Nations that are signatories to international human rights treaties and conventions, such as CEDAW and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are obligated to ensure equal rights for all citizens, including equal pay for equal work. Failing to address the gender pay gap violates these obligations.

Health and Well-being:
Economic disparities resulting from the gender pay gap can impact access to healthcare, education, and overall well-being. Equal pay contributes to better health outcomes by providing individuals with resources to access necessary services.

Building Sustainable and Inclusive Economies:
An economy that offers fair wages to all individuals, irrespective of gender, fosters greater productivity, innovation, and inclusivity. Closing the gender pay gap is not only a matter of fairness but also a catalyst for economic growth.

Long-Term Benefits for Society:
Addressing the gender pay gap positively impacts future generations. When young girls see their mothers and female role models receiving fair compensation, it sets an empowering precedent, reshaping societal norms and expectations.

Reduction of Poverty and Inequality:
Women, particularly those in low-paying jobs, are disproportionately affected by the gender pay gap. By addressing this gap, societies can take significant steps towards reducing poverty and inequality.

In essence, tackling the gender pay gap through a human rights lens is not just a matter of fairness; it is a fundamental step towards building a more just, equitable, and prosperous society where everyone can thrive and contribute to their fullest potential without discrimination.

Human Right Provision Related To Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap is the difference in average earnings between men and women. It is a form of gender inequality that violates several human rights provisions. These provisions are enshrined in international treaties and national laws that aim to promote equal rights and opportunities for all people.

International Human Right Law

  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR):
    • Article 7: States parties to the ICESCR recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work, which includes equal pay for equal work without any discrimination based on sex.
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW):
    • Article 11: States parties to CEDAW must take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment, including discrimination in matters of pay.
  • ILO Convention No. 100 on Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value:
    • This convention requires states to ensure that men and women receive equal remuneration for work of equal value.
  • ILO Convention No. 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work:
    • This convention protects workers from gender-based violence and harassment, including discrimination in pay based on sex.
  • Regional Human Rights Law
    • There are also several regional human rights treaties that address the issue of gender pay gap. These include:
      • American Convention on Human Rights: Article 17 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including in matters of employment.
      • European Convention on Human Rights: Article 14 prohibits discrimination on any ground, including sex.
      • African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: Article 18 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

National Laws
Many countries have also enacted national legislation that prohibits gender discrimination in the workplace, including pay discrimination. These laws often define and prohibit specific forms of pay discrimination, such as paying women less than men for the same work or for work of equal value.

Impact of Human Rights Provisions
These human rights provisions have had a significant impact on the fight for equal pay for equal work. They have helped to raise awareness of the issue and to put pressure on governments to take action to address it.

Laws Governing Equal Pay In India

India has several legal provisions aimed at ensuring equal pay for equal work for men and women. These provisions include:

The Constitution of India
Article 39(d) - Guarantees that the State shall direct its policy towards securing that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women.

The legal principle of "equal pay for equal work" is mentioned under:

Article 39(d), Part IV of the Constitution of India.

It states that the State should direct its policy towards securing the objective that there is an equal remuneration for both men and women.

It indicates that where the work is same, all the circumstances and considerations are similar then the people holding identical posts or ranks shall not be treated in a different way on the basis of the gender.

This doctrine seeks to balance the rights of individuals and try to promote respect, equity and respect.

The Preamble of the Constitution seeks to achieve and provide social, economic and political justice to all the citizens of the country.

Article 14 guarantees equality within the Indian Territory and Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, religion, caste etc. Hence the Constitution treats each and every citizen equal and further provides them with equal right.
  • Randhir Singh v UOI: In Randhir Singh v UOI, it was held by Supreme Court that though this doctrine is mentioned under Part IV of the Constitution and it does not have a status of a Fundamental Right, but it is certainly regarded as a constitutional goal. Therefore, it can be enforced through the remedies provided under the Article 32 of the Constitution. The Court in a case has also held that this principle can only be invoked if there is a similarity in the nature of the job and it carries the same qualification otherwise it cannot be said to qualify the doctrine.
  • Equal Remuneration Act, 1976: This Act is the primary legislation that prohibits discrimination against women in matters of wages. It mandates equal remuneration to men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature. The Act defines "equal work" as work involving the same or similar skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions. It also prohibits employers from making any deductions from women's wages on account of sex. The Act provides for the appointment of Claims Authorities to adjudicate complaints of violations of the Act.
  • Other Relevant Laws:
    • The Payment of Wages Act, 1936: This Act provides for the timely payment of wages to all employees and also prohibits unauthorized deductions from wages.
    • The Minimum Wages Act, 1948: This Act sets minimum wages for different categories of employees across various industries. It ensures that both men and women receive the same minimum wage for the same work.
    • The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961: This Act provides maternity benefits to women employees, including paid leave and medical benefits. These benefits ensure that women are not disadvantaged in terms of pay and employment opportunities due to their pregnancy.

Enforcement of Equal Pay Provisions:
  • The enforcement of the Equal Remuneration Act is primarily the responsibility of the State Governments.
  • However, the Central Government also plays a role through its implementing agency, the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central).
  • The Act empowers the Claims Authorities to award back wages and other forms of relief to women who have suffered discrimination in pay.

What Cause Gender Pay Gap?

Under-representation in leadership.
Far fewer women than men are in management and leadership positions, especially at higher levels. When women are managers, they tend to be more concentrated in management support functions such as human resources and financial administration than in more strategic roles. This brings down the average salary of female managers compared to that of male managers.

Working hours.
The gender pay gap is often a consequence of the different patterns of workforce engagement by women and men. In the Global wage report 2018/19: What lies behind the gender pay gaps, the ILO highlights that women work on a part-time basis more than men do in all but five of the 73 countries where data are available.3 This is often linked

to women taking on more of the unpaid family responsibilities. On the one hand, women may be in part-time employment as a result of the lack of affordable and sufficient child care. On the other hand, women's opportunities for full-time employment may be more limited than men's, resulting in women taking part-time employment. Part- time work does not always provide benefits that are proportional to those of full-time work, which can affect the remuneration package over time.

Time out of the workforce.
Women more than men are likely to take career breaks from their employment in order to raise children or care for the older or ill members of the family. This means that when they return to work, they are likely to have fallen behind in advancement and in remuneration. In many countries, the issue of part-time work and career breaks may not arise as domestic workers and extended family help are readily available. Nevertheless, as labour markets evolve, this situation can easily change.

Women are surpassing men in most regions as tertiary graduates, and they are advancing into the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Nevertheless, women still lag behind men in STEM areas that are associated with higher paid jobs. Even when women are qualified in STEM subjects, it can be challenging for them to obtain and maintain a job in these areas because they are traditionally male dominated.

Feminized jobs
Occupational gender stereotyping results in certain jobs being held predominately by women, and that leads to ―female jobs‖ being undervalued for purposes of wage rate determination. This brings down wages across the board for women compared to men as feminized occupations and industries tend to pay less than those occupations and industries dominated by men. Also, enterprises that:
Employ a majority of women tend to have lower wages than businesses employing mainly men.

Unexplained parts of the gender pay gap.

While there are a number of objective elements that explain the gender pay gap, research has shown that those elements do not account for the whole gap. There may be factors that are unknown or unaccounted for, but also there can be an aspect of discrimination on the basis of sex, whereby a job done by a woman is perceived as worth less than a similar job done by a man. In the absence of objective job evaluation methods and practices, gender bias can easily occur in determining pay scales for women and men.

Social Impact Of Gender Pay Gap

The gender pay gap, the difference in average earnings between men and women, has a significant and multifaceted social impact. It can lead to:
  • Economic instability: Women are disproportionately affected by poverty and economic insecurity due to lower wages. This can limit their access to basic necessities like food, housing, and healthcare, and can force them to make difficult choices about their careers and families.
  • Reduced career opportunities: The gender pay gap can discourage women from pursuing careers in high-paying fields, as they may feel that their efforts will not be rewarded equally. This can limit their career advancement and prevent them from achieving their full potential.
  • Negative health outcomes: The stress and anxiety associated with financial insecurity can negatively impact women's mental and physical health. Additionally, women may delay or forgo seeking medical care due to cost concerns.
  • Limited educational opportunities: The gender pay gap can create barriers to higher education for women, particularly for those from low-income families. This can limit their access to knowledge and skills necessary for economic advancement.
  • Perpetuation of gender inequality: The gender pay gap reinforces traditional gender roles and stereotypes, which can lead to discrimination and bias against women in all aspects of society. This can create a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
  • Negative impact on families: When women earn less, it can create financial instability for their families. This can lead to stress and conflict within the household, and can have a negative impact on the well-being of children.
  • Reduced economic growth: When women are not fully participating in the workforce, it can hinder economic growth. This is because women represent a significant portion of the population and their skills and talents are valuable to the economy.
  • Social unrest: The frustration and anger caused by the gender pay gap can contribute to social unrest and protests. This can be disruptive to communities and can make it difficult to address other important social issues.
  • Decreased trust in institutions: When people perceive that the system is unfair, it can lead to a decrease in trust in institutions such as government and businesses. This can make it difficult to implement policies that address inequality.
  • Loss of talent and potential: When women are not given equal opportunities to succeed, it represents a loss of talent and potential for society. This can hinder innovation and progress in all areas of life.
The social impact of the gender pay gap is far-reaching and complex. It is a serious issue that needs to be addressed in order to create a more equitable and just society for everyone. In addition to the above, the gender pay gap can also have a negative impact on:
  • Women's self-esteem and confidence: When women are paid less than men, it can make them feel undervalued and less confident in their abilities.
  • The ability of women to save for retirement: Women's lower wages can make it difficult for them to save for retirement, which can lead to financial insecurity later in life.
  • The ability of women to invest in their children's education: When women have less money, they may have to cut back on their children's education, which can limit their opportunities for success.

Benefits Of Closing The Gender Pay Gap

The benefits of women earning the same as men include an increase in their purchasing power which in turn helps stimulate consumer spending and the economy. This is also the case with more contributions to pension schemes and spending pension income.

By fully closing the gender pay gap, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that gains to the gross domestic product (GDP) of economies of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development could exceed US$6 trillion. Furthermore, women's earnings could increase by US$2 trillion.4 Eliminating the gender pay gap can provide incentives for more women to be economically active, which would advance gender equality and create a virtuous circle. Studies have linked increased labour participation rates of women with higher levels of GDP. The ILO estimates that reducing the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by the year 2025, could raise global GDP by 3.9 per cent, or US$5.8 trillion.

Addressing The Gender Pay Gap: Challenges And Solutions

Policy Interventions
Strengthening Legislative Measures
Challenge: Despite existing legislation, enforcement and implementation have been inconsistent, leading to limited impact.
Solution: Periodic review and amendment of existing laws, stringent penalties for non-compliance, and increased collaboration between governmental bodies and private sectors.

Enforcement and Monitoring Mechanisms
Challenge: Inadequate enforcement mechanisms undermine the efficacy of existing laws.

Solution: Establish specialized task forces or agencies dedicated to monitoring pay equity, conducting regular audits, and ensuring timely resolutions for reported disparities.

Promoting Gender-Sensitive Workplaces and Pay Transparency
Challenge: Organizational cultures that perpetuate gender biases and lack of transparency in pay structures contribute to the gender pay gap.

Solution: Encourage companies to adopt policies promoting diversity and inclusion, conduct regular pay audits, and disclose aggregated pay data to foster transparency and accountability.

Empowerment through Education and Awareness
Education and Training Programs
Challenge: Limited awareness among employees and employers about the gender pay gap and its consequences.

Solution: Implement educational programs on pay equity, diversity, and inclusion in schools, colleges, and workplaces. Provide training to human resources professionals and management on identifying and rectifying pay disparities.

Career Counselling and Mentorship
Challenge: Gender stereotypes affecting career choices and progression.

Solution: Implement career counseling programs that challenge gender norms and provide mentorship opportunities, especially for women, to support their career development.

Advocacy and Social Movements.
Grassroot Advocacy
Limited grassroots-level awareness and engagement on the issue.

Solution: Support and promote grassroots organizations and campaigns that raise awareness about the gender pay gap, advocate for policy changes, and provide a platform for affected individuals to share their experiences.

Media Campaigns
Challenge: The media's role in perpetuating gender stereotypes.

Solution: Collaborate with media outlets to run campaigns promoting pay equity, challenge stereotypes, and showcase positive stories of organizations successfully addressing the gender pay gap.

Corporate Responsibility and Affirmative Action
Corporate Responsibility
Challenge: Lack of commitment and accountability among corporations.

Solution: Encourage corporate responsibility through incentives, recognition programs, and public reporting on diversity and pay equity efforts. Investors can play a role by incorporating gender-related metrics in their evaluations.

Affirmative Action
Challenge: Deep-rooted biases impacting hiring and promotion decisions.

Solution: Implement affirmative action policies to ensure representation at all levels, especially in leadership positions. Set diversity targets and tie them to performance evaluations.

The gender pay gap in India is a stark reality that undermines the fundamental principles of human rights. Through an examination of key findings, it is evident that despite legal provisions, societal norms, biases, and implementation challenges perpetuate this discriminatory practice. The implications of this gap extend far beyond economic disparities, affecting women's autonomy, dignity, and their fundamental right to equal pay for equal work.

To address this issue effectively, collaborative efforts are imperative. The responsibility to combat gender-based wage discrimination falls not only on the government but also on civil society and private sector stakeholders. Policymakers must enact and enforce stronger legal frameworks, ensuring transparency and accountability in remuneration practices. Simultaneously, civil society plays a crucial role in raising awareness, challenging stereotypes, and advocating for change. Moreover, the private sector should adopt gender-sensitive policies and practices, promoting equity within workplaces.

Emphasizing human rights principles is crucial in the pursuit of gender equality in wages. The right to non-discrimination, the right to equal pay for equal work, and the broader principles of dignity and equality enshrined in international human rights instruments must guide legislative reforms and societal actions. Upholding these principles is not just a moral imperative but a legal obligation that must be fulfilled to create a fair and just society.

In conclusion, addressing the gender pay gap in India necessitates a multi-faceted approach that involves collaborative efforts across sectors. It is a matter that goes beyond economic considerations´┐Żit's about recognizing and safeguarding the inherent rights of individuals. Only through concerted action, driven by a commitment to human rights principles, can we pave the way for genuine gender equality in wages and ensure a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

Emphasizing the imperative of upholding human rights principles for achieving gender equality in wages:
Upholding human rights principles is not merely a suggestion but a fundamental necessity in achieving gender equality in wages. Human rights principles serve as the bedrock upon which societies build equitable structures, ensuring fairness, dignity, and justice for all individuals, regardless of gender.

The quest for gender equality in wages aligns inherently with human rights tenets. It's anchored in the principle of non-discrimination, affirming that individuals should not face differential treatment based on gender. Equal pay for equal work embodies the essence of fairness and equality, which are core human rights values. It's an assertion of the right to economic independence, autonomy, and dignity.

The implementation of human rights principles is instrumental in dismantling systemic barriers that perpetuate gender-based wage discrimination. It demands not only legal reforms but a cultural shift-a transformation of societal norms and attitudes ingrained in patriarchal structures. By emphasizing human rights principles, societies can challenge these norms, fostering environments where individuals are valued based on merit rather than gender.

Moreover, embracing human rights principles creates a framework for accountability. It places an obligation on governments, employers, and society as a whole to ensure that women receive fair compensation for their work. It empowers individuals to demand their rights and holds institutions accountable for discriminatory practices.

Therefore, the imperative of upholding human rights principles for achieving gender equality in wages cannot be overstated. It's a call to action´┐Ża recognition that achieving equitable wages transcends economics; it's a matter of human dignity, equality, and justice. By embedding these principles into policy, practice, and societal consciousness, we pave the way for a future where every individual, irrespective of gender, receives just and equal compensation for their contributions.

Written By: Shivani Sharma

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