Women's groups promote "Equal Pay Day" in Belgium

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Catholic Worker's Women Movement (KAV) militants gave out big Easters eggs to women, and small ones to men, to compensate for the gender pay gap.
The ACV trade union's easter bunny also handed out chocolates on the Friday morning market in Leuven.

Today, several trade unions and women's organisations organised actions in public places and companies all over Belgium to promote equal pay for women. Volunteers handed out flyers about the issue at the Brussels Airport and the Brussels subway and in train stations, companies, hospitals and schools throughout the country.

The third edition of the U.S.-inspired Equal Pay Day was called for by the socialist women's organisations zij-kant and the women-section of the trade union ABVV, in partnership with their Francophone equivalents, PS-women and the union FGTB, the Institute for Equality of Women and Men, the Catholic Worker's Women Movement (KAV) and the union ACV.

The Institute for Equality of Women and Men reports that wages are still on average 15% lower for women in Belgium. This figures varies in different studies. In a report ordered by the trade unions, the Higher Institute for Work of the Catholic University of Leuven reports a pay difference of 26%, based on an analysis of the wages of 20 000 men and women. This also results in an inequity in pensions.

According to the Structure of Earnings Survey by Eurostat, the European gender pay-gap mounts to 26%, whereas in Belgium the difference is around 17%. Sweden, Poland, Hungary and Slovenia are doing even better, while in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Cyprus women earn around 30% less.

ABVV volunteers handed out flyers and recompensated women by giving chocolate euros.

The inequity in payment results from company's human resource management, but is also influenced by the role of the women in the family, education, and so on. But even when these factors are taken into account, there is still a difference of 5 to 7%.

The organisations acknowledge that there have been small improvements, and that there have been hopeful political steps since their action last year. Because their target of equal wages for men and woman has moved a little bit closer, they've decided to hold the third edition one day earlier, on March 30 instead of March 31. This date symbolises the 15 months a woman has to work on average to earn the same as her male colleague. In the United States, the difference is bigger, and hence the Equal Pay Day is only held on April 24. The European Equal Pay Day was been held last February 22.

With their campaign, the organisation urges politicians to improve the rapports on the phenomenon, to encourage gender-friendly human resource management in businesses, to address gender-issues in the schools, and to keep their previous promises.

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