With a third more women in poverty by retirement age and longer life expectancy, the consequences of the gender pay gap could have long-lasting impacts, Ruth Farrugia is warning.

But waiting 217 years until this gap closed was unacceptable, according to the Director General of the President’s Foundation for the Well-being of Society (PFWS).

With an 11 per cent pay gap average, today marks Malta’s Equal Pay Day – from today until the end of the year, women will symbolically be working for free.

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average gross hourly earnings of men and women, which includes overtime, bonuses and other perks, all expressed as a percentage of the average gross of the yearly earnings of men. It is not the same issue as equal pay.

The PFWS has launched a video shedding light on this national disparity, after growing aware of misconceptions, such as the myth that the pay gap came about solely as a result of women’s choices.

“Over a lifetime, the effects of the gender pay gap start to add up. According to the World Economic Forum, by retirement age, a third more women are in poverty when compared to men.

“Given that women also tend to spend more years in retirement due to longer life expectancy, the consequences of the gender pay gap can have a long-lasting impact on their ability to live a decent life,” Dr Farrugia noted.

Statistics point to a gender pay gap which is increasing alongside an increase in female employment

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, the gap will not be closed for another 217 years.

“This is unacceptable. Locally, statistics point to a gender pay gap which is increasing alongside an increase in female employment, and which is at its highest among women with a university level of education.

“Full equality has moved farther away and it increases the urgency for us to work on it,” Dr Farrugia said. She added that the foundation saw itself helping to facilitate and empower people to actively participate in the processes that identify and promote well-being.

Asked about the main contributors to the gap, Centre for Labour Studies Anna Borg said the culture of secrecy in private firms and the lack of transparency regarding wages gave rise to direct discrimination. The gap, meanwhile, increased with age and parenthood.

Read: The more educated, the wider the gender pay gap

Since women tended to take on the lion’s share of caring and unpaid house work, in the employers’ eyes women were deviant and men remained the norm as they had a more consistent and linear work pattern.

This affected their career prospects, including remuneration, perks, training and promotion opportunities.  

It was also mothers who normally adjusted their working time to cope with the extra unremunerated work. This affected their income as it resulted in more mothers reducing working time, taking career breaks or refusing overtime.

“Burdens that men conveniently continue to assume are not their main responsibility. These traditional gender roles are reinforced by the legislator who assumes that men only need two days of paternity leave, against the 18 weeks allocated to the mother,” Dr Borg aid.

What is her advice to women to challenge the structural systems? 

Demand more transparency in work structures, demand that partners take on their fair share of unpaid caring work and housework, split career breaks with partners and negotiate wage packages more fiercely, she urged.  

What can we actually do about the gender pay gap?

▪ Men need to take on their share of caring responsibilities and be empowered to become more involved in parenting. A great start would be for family leave to be extended and equally shared.

▪ Flexible work conditions is key, so that parenting obligations can be met without having a negative and unequal effect on career progression.

▪ Salary decision processes within companies should become transparent.

▪ Regular external auditing for companies to certify that their practices actually comply with what they laid out in terms of their salary decision processes.

▪ Greater female representation at company decision-making levels, with clear pathways for career progression.

▪ Places of work should be encouraged to pursue the Equality Mark awarded by the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality.

▪ Speak out against any form of gender discrimination or inequality in the workplace.

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