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Females earning less than men in health sector: Report

Nurse offers treatment to a patient. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Women in the health sector earn less than their male counterparts, this is according to a new report published by the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization.

According to the report, women in the health sector face a bigger gender pay gap compared to those in other economic sectors. WHO records show that women account for 67 percent of health and care workers worldwide. However, it is now estimated that women earn 24 percent less compared to their male counterparts that make up 33 percent of the workforce.

The report notes that the most affected group of females are mothers. The report shows that mothers working in the health and care sector appear to suffer additional penalties. During a woman’s reproductive years, employment and gender pay gaps in the sector significantly increase.

These gaps then persist throughout the rest of a woman’s working life. The report observes that a more equitable sharing of family duties between men and women could in many instances, lead to women making different occupational choices.

The report also finds that gender gaps are a problem faced globally and are inevitable. Within countries, gender pay gaps tend to be wider in higher pay categories, where men are over-represented. Women are over-represented in the lower pay categories.

Jim Campbell, the WHO Director of Health Workforce says many women despite earning less have to suffer penalties like pay cuts during maternal leave and other breaks.

“Women comprise the majority of workers in the health and care sector, yet in far too many countries systemic biases are resulting in pernicious pay penalties against them. The evidence and analysis in this ground-breaking report must inform governments, employers and workers to take effective action. Encouragingly, the success stories in several countries show the way, including wage increases and political commitment to pay equity,” he said.

While the report cannot attribute the pay gaps to a particular factor, it cites several factors that might be responsible for this such as, differences in age, education, working time and the difference in the participation of men and women in the public or private sectors.

As the world recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic which saw many health workers overworked, labour experts say that governments need to work towards increasing the pay of health workers.

Manuela Tomei, Director of Conditions of Work and Equality Department at the International Labour Organization says with COVID-19, it is important for the governments to close the pay gap that exists to enable effective recovery of the sector.

According to Tomei, the governments need to come up with decisive policy actions to correct the anomaly since female health workers likely work longer hours compared to their female counterparts.

“The health and care sector has endured low pay in general, stubbornly large gender pays gaps and very demanding working conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic clearly exposed this situation while also demonstrating how vital the sector and its workers are in keeping families, societies and economies going. There will be no inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery without a stronger health and care sector. We cannot have better-quality health and care services without better and fairer working conditions, including fairer wages, for health and care workers, the majority of whom are women,” she said.

The UN agencies report is similar to the 2021 Global Gender Gap Index report that shows that it will take women more than 135 years to close the gender parity gap between men and women.

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