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Women in health, care sector earn 24 per cent less than men – Report

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A NEW report has said women who work in the health and care sector earn 24 per cent less than their male counterparts.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly funded the report titled “The gender pay gap in the health and care sector: a global analysis in the time of COVID-19.”

On Wednesday, the two organisations described the report as the most comprehensive global analysis of gender pay inequalities in the health and care sector. However, health practitioners spoken to by The ICIR have said the gender pay gap or inequality is not applicable in the Nigerian health sector as the country does not have gender discriminatory wages.

According to the report, women face a larger gender pay gap than other economic sectors, earning 24 per cent less than men on average.

The report highlighted that women are underpaid for their labour market attributes compared to men.

It noted that “much of the wage gap is unexplained, perhaps due to discrimination towards women – who account for 67 per cent of health and care workers worldwide”. 

The report also observed that wages in the health and care sector are lower overall compared to other economic sectors. 

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It stressed that its findings were consistent with the claim that wages are often lower in economic sectors where women are predominant.

The report alleged that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the crucial role played by health and care workers, there were only marginal improvements in pay equality between 2019 and 2020.

“It also finds a wide variation in gender pay gaps in different countries, suggesting that pay gaps in the sector are not inevitable and that more can be done to close these gaps.

“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.

“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 contended that factors driving the sector’s gender pay gaps include age, education and working time differences.

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Commenting on the report, the Director of Conditions of Work and Equality Department at the International Labour Organization, Manuela Tomei, said the health and care sector had endured stubbornly large gender pay gaps and very demanding working conditions. “The COVID-19 pandemic clearly exposed this situation while demonstrating how vital the sector and its workers are in keeping families, societies and economies going.”

Tomei averred that there would 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. 

“The time has arrived for decisive policy action, including the necessary policy dialogue between institutions. We hope this detailed and authoritative report will help stimulate the dialogue and action needed to create this.”

Similarly, the WHO Director of Health Workforce, Jim Campbell, blamed low pay for women on systemic biases.

Jim described the report as ‘ground-breaking’ and agreed that more women than men are in the health and care sector.

The ICIR reports that the gender pay gap is the wage difference between men and women in the workplace.

Though the WHO and ILO described the report as “the most comprehensive global analysis of gender pay inequalities in the health and care sector,” this newspaper reports that the gender pay gap does not exist in Nigeria’s health sector.

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The ICIR contacted workers in the sector to verify the report’s claims.

The National President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), James Damen, a professor, said Nigeria was not paying gender-based discriminatory wages to its health workers.

“No. It is the same scheme of service for both genders. There is no discrepancy in terms of gender in the payment of salaries,” he said in response to the ICIR’s enquiry.

Similarly, the President of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dare Godiya Ishaya, said the practice did not exist in the country.

“It is not obtainable here. That assertion is not applicable here. They are referring to the United States of America and the rest because they pay them based on the hours they work.

“So, those females that do have issues, maybe because of pregnancy and the rest, it usually affects the number of days they put into work. If you don’t come to work, you won’t be paid for that period you were not at work.”

“In Nigeria, workers, males and females, are paid equally.”

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