The gender pay gap is the result of many complex factors including vertical and horizontal occupational segregation, direct pay discrimination but is mainly linked to what is called the “motherhood penalty”. In a society where unpaid care work (household work, caring for children, disabled, elderly and frail) isn’t valued, the motherhood penalty refers to the pay gap (care gap) between mothers and childless women.
The fact that mothers suffer a wage penalty raises major concerns that go beyond those highlighted by gender inequality. This ultimately questions the capacity of societies to manage a sustainable balance between their economic aim of active female participation in paid work and the social aims of providing a fair distribution of income to support the reproduction and rearing of children.
Moreover, the absence of a definition of the concept of work of equal value, including clear evaluation criteria for the comparison of different functions, constitutes a major obstacle for victims of wage discrimination seeking legal action. The inclusion in European Union legislation, enforceable in national legislation, of such a definition and criteria for classification and evaluation of functions could help victims of wage discrimination to bring an action before the national courts.
In Chapter I, this paper will present a short state of play of the gender pay gap in the European Union. In Chapter II, it will explore the underlying cause of the gender pay gap, which arises from the unequal distribution of unpaid care work. In Chapter III, we will present a summary of the Belgian current situation on equal pay, and finally make some recommendations in Chapter IV.
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