UN members pledge to close gender pay gap

The gender pay gap stands at 23% on a global basis.

United Nations’ member states have pledged to implement equal pay policies and close the gender pay gap, which stands at 23% worldwide.

Following two weeks of intense discussions at UN headquarters in New York, the Commission on the Status of Women concluded with commitments from the 162 member states attending that they would support female economic empowerment by introducing policies such as gender audits and job evaluations. They also agreed to increase the availability of relevant public services and to provide affordable childcare to enable women to undertake paid work.

The agreement likewise entreated governments to measure the value of unpaid care and domestic work though time-use surveys and emphasised that both men and women should have access to paid parental leave. It also urged member states to take steps to end violence and harassment against women in the workplace by strengthening and enforcing existing laws and policies.

While women’s rights activists dubbed the final deal “significant”, the Guardian newspaper said fears that this year’s talks would be derailed by conservative groups seeking to reduce women’s rights proved well-founded.

Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, said: “These were hard-fought gains as countries like the US, Russia and Guyana worked to weaken governments’ resolve to tackle violence and harassment and protect sexual and reproductive rights. Governments must face the facts that women’s rights to exercise autonomy over their bodies and lives is critical to their economic empowerment.”

Some African nations also claimed in the case of women undertaking unpaid work that it was a “cultural” issue and they enjoyed it. They also argued that it was not the responsibility of the state to reduce current unpaid working levels.