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Comparable worth in industrialized countries.

The significant increase in women's work force participation following World War II, together with the attention directed to the issue by women's groups, has led to considerable international debate on the merits of equal pay. As a result, most industrialized countries have enacted equal employment opportunity and antidiscrimination measures aimed at breaking down the occupational and vertical segregation of women in the labor market. A recent study, sponsored by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, determined the nature and extent of these initiatives. This report excerpts some findings from that study.

Great Britain. Private sector equal pay legislation was first introduced in 1975, when the Equal Pay Act of 1970 (amended by the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975) took effect. This Act provided that all persons doing the same or broadly similar work for the same or an associated employer are entitled to equal pay and equal terms and conditions of employment, unless the employer could show that the difference in pay was genuinely due to a material difference other than the difference of sex.

The Equal Pay Act was amended by the Equal Pay Amendment Regulations of 1983 to extend work value comparisons to include work of "equal value" in terms of effort, skill, and responsibility. Claims under current legislation are brought by individual women, through their unions, to industrial tribunals. Class actions are not possible. The Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service has a statutory duty to attempt conciliation cases brought to industrial tribunals under the Act.

Canada. The Canadian Human Rights Act, which took effect on March 1, 1978, states that it is a discriminatory practice for an employer to establish or maintain differences in compensation between male and female employees in the same establishment who are performing work of equal value based on the standard criteria of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. It covers all federally regulated sectors, including the Federal public service, Crown corporations, and persons employed in banks, airlines, and interprovincial transportation. The Human Rights Commission can initiate complaints and respond to complaints brought by individuals, third parties (such as labor inspectors), or groups.

Provincial equal pay legislation applies to that proportion of the labor force working within a province's boundaries who do not fall within Federal jurisdiction. Federal and provincial equal pay legislation, between them, cover about one-third of the Canadian work force. Every province has legislation mandating equal pay for similar and substantially similar work. However, the scope of provincial legislation varies among jurisdictions.

Labour Canada's Equal Pay Program was established in 1984. Its aim is to eliminate sex-based wage discrimination in the Federal jurisdiction, using a three-step process to determine compliance and to respond to noncompliance. The first step is an educational visit to inform employers of their legal obligations and to provide advice. The second step is a series of monitoring visits to these employers to answer technical questions and to verify progress. The final step is onsite inspection and subsequent referral to the Canadian Human Rights Commission if noncompliance is found.

United States. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 provides, in the Federal jurisdiction, for equal pay for jobs requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions. The Act protects most private employees whose employers are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, including executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees, who are exempt from the minimum wage and overtime provisions. Most Federal, State, and local government workers also are covered under the Act. While this provision is generally held to be applicable only to jobs "substantially equal" in nature, a number of U.S. States have adopted laws that go beyond equal pay for equal work and call for equal pay for work of comparable worth. In any case, most States already have equal pay laws or fair employment laws comparable to the Equal Pay Act or Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, or both. Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer: 1) "to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's sex"; or 2) "to limit, segregate, or classify his employees ... in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee" because, among other things, of such a person's sex. Title VII coverage extends to Federal employees, private employers, State and local governments, educational institutions, and labor organizations having 15 or more employees.

Executive Order 11246 of 1965, which requires that every nonexempt contract with the Federal Government contain clauses that impose upon contractors and subcontractors antidiscrimination rules, equal reporting activities, and investigations related to enforcement. The written affirmative action plans required of larger employers with Federal contracts or subcontracts involved a comprehensive requirement for self-analysis of all positions, classifications, compensation, and also recruitment, training, and promotion patterns. When a compliance review identifies problems in the analysis, agreements must be reached to remedy them.

Australia. New South Wales was first Australian jurisdiction to change its Industrial Arbitration Act to entrench the principle of equal pay for equal work in 1958, followed by Queensland in 1964, Tasmania (for public servants only) in 1966, South Australia in 1967, and Western Australia in 1968. Victoria did not specifically introduce any equal pay legislation before 1969.

The establishment of a standard adult minimum wage in 1974 and the extension of equal pay for work of equal value to Australian women workers were industrially determined, and are considered separately.

In 1984, Australia passed its Sex Discrimination Act, administered by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission. There is no formal definition of equal pay in the Act; instead, it prohibits discriminatory terms and conditions of employment.

New Zealand. New Zealand has a centralized wage-fixing system, and equal pay legislation applying to both private sector and public sector employees. The Government Service Equal Pay Act, effective April 1, 1961, provided for the elimination of differences based on sex in scales of salary or wages paid to Government employees as soon as practicable after April 1, 1963. The Equal Pay Act of 1972 implemented the principle of equal pay in the private sector. It provided for the removal and prevention of discrimination based on sex in the rates of remuneration of men and women in paid employment in five steps, and full implementation of equal pay by April 1, 1977. It required the parties to adopt a wage-setting instrument, undertake a work classification exercise, and determine rates of remuneration that represent equal pay in accordance with defined criteria rewarding skill, responsibility, and service.

Portugal. According to the Portuguese Constitution of 1976, "all workers without any distinction of sex are entitled to retribution of labour, according to quantity, nature, and quality, thus observing the principle of equal pay for equal work, in order to ensure a decent living." In 1979, Legislative Decree No. 392/79 extended those constitutional principles by requiring that "equal pay for working men and women for equal work or work of equal value done for the same employer, is ensured." The legislation provides that job descriptions and job evaluations shall be based on objective criteria common to the two sexes. It does not cover work at home and domestic service, the state services, and local authorities. However, Legislative Decree No. 426/88 deals with the implementation of equal pay and equal treatment in central, regional, and local administration.

Under the Decree, provisions in individual or collective agreements that are contrary to the principle of equal pay are deemed to be null and void. The legislation further provides that a lower (female) rate of remuneration prescribed in a contract or agreement shall be replaced automatically by the higher (male) rate. Penalties are prescribed for breach of Equal Remuneration Provisions.

Japan. The Japanese Constitution of 1946 proclaims the equality of all under the law and condemns any form of discrimination, particularly for reasons of sex, in any field of activity. It provides for the statutory regulation of wages, hours of work, and rest periods. The Labour Standards Act of 1947 repeats the constitutional prohibition of discrimination based on sex with reference to all payments made by an employer to an employee in return for work, and provides for penal measures in cases of noncompliance.

With regard to public services, the National Public Services Act and the Local Public Services Act stipulate that staff salaries must be based on the duties performed and the responsibility carried, and further forbid any discrimination for reasons of sex in the application of their provisions.

The continuance, in spite of the 1947 legislation, of practices such as forced female retirement on marriage and segregation of the work force (enforced by separate recruitment and promotion arrangements), resulted in the Law Concerning the Promotion of Equal Opportunity and Treatment between Men and Women in Employment and Other Welfare Measures for Women Workers, effective April 1, 1986. The law prohibits sex discrimination in education and training, fringe benefits, hiring, placement, promotion, retirement, and dismissal. Like the earlier legislation, it does not make provision for job evaluation methods for segregated occupations. There are no criminal penalties for an employer who does not comply with the law, but an Equal Employment Opportunity Mediation Commission will offer mediation of grievances autonomously.

Greece. Greece is bound by Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community, and by the EEC Equal Pay Directive of February 10, 1975. In addition, the Greek Constitution of 1975 specifies that work of equal value should receive equal payment. Law 1414/84 on the Application of the Principle of Equality of the Sexes in Working Relations sets out a requirement that men and women receive equal remuneration for work of equal value, and provides sanctions for violators.

Belgium. In Belgium, the EEC Equal Pay Directive was implemented by Convention Collective du Travail No. 25, approved by the Conseil National du Travail (National Labor Board) and enforced by Royal Order in 1975, and hence is binding on all private sector employers in respect of all of their workers. In the public sector, equality of pay between men and women already followed from Article 6 of the Constitution, guaranteeing the equality of all citizens at law, as well as from Article 6bis, proscribing all discrimination.

Subsequently, the Council of the European Communities adopted Directive No. 76/207 in 1976, dealing with equal treatment of men and women, particularly with respect to working conditions. This Directive is directly binding on the Belgian Government. To implement this Directive, Title V of the Economic Reorientation Act of August 4, 1978, was adopted.

Denmark. The Danish Equal Pay (Consolidation) Act No. 237 of May 5, 1986, gives the following definition of equal pay:

1. (1) No discrimination in terms of pay on the grounds of a person's sex may take place in contravention of the provisions laid down in this Act.

(2) Any employer who employs men and women shall give them equal pay, including equal pay terms, for the same work or work given the same value.

(3) This Act shall not be applicable in cases where a similar duty concerning equal pay follows from a collective agreement.

2. An employee whose pay in contravention of Section 1 is lower than the pay of others shall be entitled to claim the difference.

Sweden. The principle of equal remuneration, irrespective of sex, for identical appointments, was first introduced in the public sector in Sweden in 1947. In 1960, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation and the Swedish Employers' Confederation agreed on the abolition of specifically women's wages over a 5-year period. It was agreed that women and men should be paid the same for equivalent work, and collective agreements on equality began to extend across the labor market. In terms of legislation, the question of equal pay is addressed in the Swedish Act on Equality between Men and Women at Work (1980), which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex. The Act provides that discrimination on the grounds of sex shall also be considered to exist where an employer applies to an employee less favorable terms of remuneration than those applied by that employer to an employee of the opposite sex where the work they perform is to be regarded as equal on the basis of collective agreement or established practice within the branch of activity, or as equivalent according to an agreed job evaluation, unless the employer can show that the discrepancy in the terms of employment is not due to the employee's sex.

The Act covers both the public and private sectors as regards the prohibition of discrimination. It also has provisions that make it incumbent on an employer to take active steps to promote equality. This part of the law can be set aside by collective agreements to the same effect.

Finland. Legislation addressing pay equity came into force in Finland on January 1, 1987, as part of a broader package of equity legislation and covers both the private and public sectors. The Equality Act specifies, in Section 8, that the actions of an employer shall be regarded as discriminatory if (among other things) the employer "applies to an employee conditions of payment or employment less favorable than those he applies to an employee of the opposite sex employed by him in the same work or work of equal value." The concept of work of equal value has not been specified in the Act; nor have "conditions of payment" been further defined. An employer who is found to have violated the prohibition on discrimination is liable to pay compensation.

Turkey. Equal pay legislation was first introduced in Turkey in 1967 through the Turkish Labour Act No. 931, and covers both public and private sector workers. The State Official's Law of 1965 also includes the principle of equal pay. In addition, the 1982 Turkish Republic Constitution calls for a "guarantee of fair wage" and stipulates that "the State shall take the necessary measures to ensure that workers earn a fair wage suitable for the work they perform and that they enjoy other social benefits."

The Turkish Labour Act No. 1475 specifies that "in an undertaking, no distinction shall be made on grounds of sex between the wages paid to male and female workers performing jobs of the same nature and working with equal efficiency [and that] no provision contrary to this principle may be included in any collective agreement or contract of employment." Formal definitions of equal remuneration and comparable worth are set out in collective labor agreements.

The complete report on the comparative experience with pay equity, Equal Pay for Work of Comparable Worth: The Experience of Industrialised Countries, Labour Market and Social Policy Occasional Papers No. 6 (Paris, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1991), is available from the Directorate for Education, Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, 2 rue Andre-Pascal, 75775 Paris Cedex 16, France.
COPYRIGHT 1992 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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