Author: Dariia Andriunina
Every year, on 18 September, the world celebrates International Equal Pay Day, an annual event established by the UN General Assembly in 2019. The day emphasises the importance of ensuring equal pay for all workers, regardless of their gender.
Discrimination in the workplace, including pay inequality, violates fundamental human rights, and threatens social justice. Pay inequality is often based on gender and social stereotypes, which contradicts the principle of equal opportunities and equal rights for all citizens. It can lead to negative consequences, not only for the individual who suffers from discrimination, but for the economy as a whole, as it distorts competition, and impacts the participation and potential of women in the labour market.
The issue of equal pay is becoming more urgent as awareness of gender equality and women’s rights grows. Modern women play an important role in society and the economy, and their contribution should be adequately recognised and rewarded. Gender pay inequality is an expression of stereotypes and discrimination, and it is detrimental to the whole of society.
Equality between women and men is one of the EU’s core values. It has been celebrated since 1957, when the principle of equal pay for work of equal value became part of the Treaty of Rome. Over the past decades, the EU has implemented a number of initiatives, including the development and implementation of equal rights legislation and gender mainstreaming approaches (incorporating a gender perspective into all policies).
With the renewal of the EU institutions after the 2019 European elections, gender equality returned to the political agenda with the support of the first female President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the creation of the position of Commissioner for Equality, currently held by Helena Dalli.
On 5 March 2020, the European Commission published the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, which is one of a series of EU initiatives and strategies on equality, diversity, and inclusion that the European Commission is implementing as part of its key ambition for “A Stronger Europe in the World”.
As one of the first deliverables of the Strategy, on 4 March 2021, the European Commission proposed binding measures on pay transparency. On 8 March 2022, the European Commission adopted a new European-wide proposal for a directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence. The proposal aims to introduce targeted minimum rules on the rights of this group of victims of crime, as well as to criminalise the most serious forms of violence against women and cyberviolence.
An important achievement is the Gender Balance on Corporate Boards Directive, which aims to improve the gender balance in senior management positions in the largest listed companies in the EU. After 10 years of negotiations, the Directive was finally adopted on 22 November 2022.
On 8 March 2023, the European Commission launched a campaign aimed at tackling gender stereotypes. This pan-European campaign aims to tackle gender stereotypes that affect men and women in different areas of life, including career choices, sharing of care responsibilities and decision-making. It is a concrete result of the Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2025.
Ukraine is also taking steps to address these issues and to harmonise its legislation with European standards. The national legislation on ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men is quite broad. Equality is guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine. At the same time, the following basic laws are in force: the Law of Ukraine “On Ensuring Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men” and the Law of Ukraine “On Principles of Preventing and Combating Discrimination in Ukraine”.
In addition, a gender legal expertise is now conducted on all draft legal acts to ensure their compliance with international treaties ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and resolutions of international conferences, international organisations and human rights bodies regarding the principle of equal rights and opportunities for women and men.
In 2017, the position of the Government Commissioner for Gender Policy was introduced, currently held by Kateryna Levchenko.
One of the breakthrough events was the government’s approval in September 2023 of the National Strategy for Eliminating the Gender Pay Gap in Ukraine by 2030 and the approval of the Operational Plan for its implementation for 2023-2025, which were developed to create legislative, methodological, institutional and organisational preconditions for a systematic and steady reduction of the gender pay gap for work of equal value in Ukraine. The goal of this Strategy is to achieve a sustainable reduction of the gender pay gap by 2030 by creating favourable conditions and developing effective mechanisms to ensure progress in this area. To achieve this goal, the following strategic objectives have been defined:
- Improving the legislation on equal pay;
- Creating favourable conditions for overcoming stereotypes and discrimination in relation to professions based on gender;
- Creating favourable conditions for convenient reconciliation of family and professional responsibilities.
Gender equality is vital for Ukraine’s European integration. We need to continue our efforts to ensure equal pay for work of equal value and gender equality in the workplace. We need to learn from the EU’s experience and best practices, such as establishing an effective system for monitoring and handling discrimination complaints, raising public awareness and teaching gender equality from primary school.
It is also important to note the actions of the Young European Ambassadors in Ukraine in the context of gender equality. They play an extremely important role in promoting this topic among young people and contribute to creating positive changes in society. Thus, in 2022, the Young European Ambassadors in Ukraine organised and implemented such gender equality projects as Stem School: Your First Step to Success (in partnership with the Women’s League NGO), and Frank Talk about Healthy Relationships and Self-Love (in partnership with the Women’s League, Girls, and JurFEM NGOs).
International Equal Pay Day reminds us of the importance of equal opportunities and rights for all in the workplace. Pay discrimination violates these principles and undermines gender equality. The EU and Ukraine are working together to ensure equal pay for work of equal value and to create a fair and equal society for all citizens. Much has already been done in Ukraine, but more needs to be done. Measures taken in this direction must be effective and well implemented, considering European values and best practices. Only then will we be able to achieve true gender equality in the workplace and in society as a whole.