Call for wage transparency in Belgium
Women earn less than men. In Belgium the pay gap is 9.7%, if calculated on the basis of annual wages, and part-time work taken into account, the wage gap is even 21%. Stronger policies are needed.
In the past few years, our country has already built up a legal framework and gathered a lot of expertise. The law of the 22nd of April 2012 on equal pay aims to combat pay inequality at all levels: at interprofessional level through the obligation of social partners to negotiate measures to reduce the wage gap and at company level through the organisation of compulsory social concertation and the adoption of equality plans. In addition, the Federal Institute for the Equality of Women and Men was assigned with a monitoring mission and the publication of an annual pay gap report. Thanks to this law, the visibility of the problem increased, and the pay gap was reduced, as mentioned by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR). Nevertheless, Belgium was criticised by the Council of Europe on the 29th of June 2020, for violating two articles of the European Social Charter, particularly by failing to ensure wage transparency, which is crucial for equal pay for work of equal value between women and men. Furthermore, the committee adds that the current Belgian legislation does not set the parameters to ensure equal value of performed work. Even though there is a large-scale evaluation of job classifications as to their gender neutrality and verification by the labour inspectorate, no real sanction foreseen.
It is time for Belgium to include the principle of wage transparency in its legislation.
President von der Leyen put forward an ambitious agenda in the field of gender equality. The parliament welcomed the commitment of the President to put forward a directive with binding measures on wage equality and wage transparency. Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli will table a proposal before the end of 2020. Moreover, this European strategy should also include a monitoring process and, in addition to the wage and labour gap, it should clearly refer to the pension and care gap.
The Belgian Government has to support this policy in the European Council and will have to transpose the new directive into its own national legislation in consultation with social partners.
May the Belgian Parliament take the lead in reducing the pay gap by supporting wage transparency.
Sabine de Bethune
WPL Ambassador for the Belgian Senate