Women in today’s world are a paragon of total independence. However, in every country in the world, women continue to be paid less for comparable work than men.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), the massive entry of women into active economic life has only rarely been matched by a corresponding improvement in their living or working conditions. Though the gender disparity in remuneration gap has narrowed slightly in the past men continue to dominate the highest corporate and institutional positions everywhere in the world. The ILO estimates that, at the present rate of progress worldwide, it would take 475 years for parity to be achieved between men and women in top level managerial and administrative positions.
Inequality of treatment marks all aspects of women's working lives, beginning with wages and employment opportunities to decision-making and managerial positions. Though women's employment is primarily concentrated in a narrow range of sectors, even in these sectors women find themselves clustered at the lower echelons. In the industrialized countries, between 65 to 90 percent of all part-time workers are women.
Despite the many obstacles they face, most women need and want to work. An ILO survey of women in the Czech Republic revealed that only 28 percent of married women said they would stay at home if their husbands made enough money for them to do so. Statistics fail entirely to reflect the amount of work women perform for no wages at all. Worldwide, women work much longer hours than men when work at home is added. "The work many societies expect women to do without compensation amounts to an extra tax on women," says the ILO.
Despite wage discrimination decreasing in the developed world, in some countries there has been little or no change. For example, according to ILO Yearbook of Labor Statistics, in 1992 salaried women in Belgium and the Netherlands earned, 75 percent to 77percent of what males earned - the same figure as in 1984. In the UK, women wage earners, who took home 69 percent of male earnings in 1985, saw an increase of only 2 percent, to 71percent of male earnings.
Wage gains were slightly more pronounced in Australia, rising from 86 percent of men's salaries in 1980 to 90 percent in 1993, for non-managerial employees. In Sri Lanka, where women's earnings are 96 percent of men's earnings, is one of the most balanced among the countries listed. In the United States, the average hourly wage of women working full-time rose from 72 percent of the male equivalent to 82 percent over the course of the decade.
In Denmark, female wage earners lost a percentage point, from 84 percent in 1984 to 83 percent in 1992. Women in Europe may be better educated or work harder than men, but they are paid substantially less, according to the ILO. In the UK, women earn about 28 percent less than men on average. In all the countries studied around the world, the proportion of pay gap remains unexplained, implying discrimination, it said.