French women urged to walk out of work over pay disparity
FRANCE - French women were being urged to walk out of work yesterday to protest against being paid less than their male colleagues. Women’s rights campaigners at the feminist newsletter Les Glorieuses suggested that downing tools until the end of the year – in effect taking 38.2 days off – would highlight the global wage disparity that experts say will not disappear until 2186.
The education minister, Najat Belkacem, formerly minister for women’s rights, backed the strike. “The fight for pay equality involves the whole of society. We cannot wait until 2186,” she tweeted. Laurence Rossignol, the current women’s rights minister, welcomed the initiative and said she had no problem with women in her office stopping work to take part in the protest. “When women protest, they make visible what is invisible … I support them,” she told Le Parisien. The organization Osez le Féminisme (Dare to be Feminist) is also supporting the movement and has demanded that French companies face fines if they do not respect equal pay laws. There are just under 13.8 million working women in France, making up 48% of the total workforce, but Eurostat figures for 2014 show men’s salaries are about 15.1% higher. Across Europe, women earn on average 16.1% less than men in equivalent jobs. According to the Equal Pay Portal, the average gender pay gap in the UK decreased from 19.3% in 2015 to 18.1% in April 2016. The protest follows a similar move in Iceland on 24 October, when thousands of women left work at 14.38 to demonstrate against the 14% wage inequality in the country.
“It is a strong sign and we are joining the protest,” said Les Glorieuses. “This difference in salaries hides other inequalities. Women also do unpaid work, like household tasks.” Les Glorieuses urged all French women to take part in the protest yesterday. “We represent almost half of the working population and 52% of the total population. We don’t want to wait until 2186 for equal salaries. We do not wish to wait 170 years for this parity.” (Theguardian.com)