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When Will Women Earn Equal Pay For Equal Work?

by Rebecca Walker Chan  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | 8 March 2017

s 867655912578Today is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.


At CSR Asia, we talk and write extensively about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how vital it is for businesses to integrate and operationalise the 2030 Agenda into their daily operations. We’ve discussed the need to move beyond being aspirational at the international level, and to dive into development policies, plans and strategies at the local level. We’ve provided guidance to some of Asia’s leading businesses on how to include the goals in their sustainability strategies and communications plans. We’ve also dug into specific SDGs, such as Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and the potential effect their achievement could make on the Asian market.


With such an emphasis on the SDGs in our work, it was only natural for our team to be excited (and admittedly be competitive) about the Guardian’s Quiz on ‘How Much Do You Know about the Sustainable Development Goals?’ Supported by the UN’s Business Call to Action, which challenges companies to develop inclusive business models, the quiz asks some tough questions and one in particular has spurred a lively discussion amongst our mostly female staff:


The SDGs are targeting equal pay for work of equal value. On current trends, when does the World Economic Forum expect the gender pay gap to close?

The answer – which none of us got correct – is astonishing.


According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, the global gap in earnings between men and women continues to be a divisive issue and provides a snapshot of the legal and social frameworks within which we all lie and work. Through the report, which covers 144 countries, the WEF quantifies the magnitude of gender disparities and tracks their progress over time, with a specific focus on the relative gaps between women and men across four key areas: health, education, economy, and politics.


The report highlights that there is an excellent, clear, values-based business case for promoting gender parity: women are one-half of the world’s population and evidently deserve equal access to health, education, economic participation, earning potential, and political decision-making power. Gender parity is equally fundamental to whether and how societies thrive. Ensuring the healthy development and appropriate use of half of the world’s total talent pool has a vast bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.


However, in 2016, not one country had closed their overall gender gap and the economic losses from disparity are easily quantifiable. For example, as a region, East Asia and the Pacific reportedly loses between US$42 billion to US$47 billion annually due to women’s limited access to employment opportunities. More than half of the population in Asia are women, yet much of the talents, human capital and economic potential of women in Asia still remain untapped.


With an average gender gap of just under 32%, the East Asia and the Pacific region scores in the middle of the range of the Index, led by the Philippines. Which, despite a slight decline in its overall score from previous years, has had recent success in closing its gender gap on the Health and Survival sub index (a calculation of infant mortality and life expectancy by gender). The Philippines has also managed to fully re-close its Educational Attainment gender gap after a re-opening for the first time last year.


Global Gender Gap Index 2016 – ASEAN Member States

Rank Economy Score
7 Philippines 0.786
43 Lao PDR 0.724
55 Singapore 0.712
65 Vietnam 0.700
71 Thailand 0.699
88 Indonesia 0.682
99 China 0.676
103 Brunei Darussalam 0.669
106 Malaysia 0.666
112 Cambodia 0.658

The highest possible score is 1 (equality) and the lowest possible score is 0 (inequality)


A key takeaway from the 2016 report is that despite over a decade of data, progress has been slow and at current rates it will take several generations before the global economy and population will reach its full potential.


These results reveal that more action is needed, that countries and businesses can do much more to close the gender gap and make substantive contributions towards gender equality in the workplace. Businesses can start this trend by removing any gender-based pay gaps, providing equal opportunities and aligning with the SDGs as gender equality and equal pay are chief among them. Moreover, the private sector also needs to step up and collaborate with governments to enhance the social recognition and welfare of working women, and to discourage sexism in all levels of government, business, and public discourse.


So, what was the answer to the original question? When does the WEF estimate that the global gender pay gap will close at current rates?

Year 2186. In 169 years, our great great great granddaughters may be the first generation of women to receive equal pay for equal work.  


If you want to share your experience celebrating International Women’s Day, in taking the Guardian’s quiz on ‘how much do you know about the sustainable development goals?, applying the SDGs in your business, or are interested in CSR Asia initiatives, please contact us