“Does the over-representation of women and men in specific occupational categories represent the lingering effects of society’s stereotyping?”

This was a question posed to union representatives, public sector workers and others gathered at the Accra Beach Hotel, Rockley, Christ Church, last Friday, by Labour Minister, Colin Jordan. 

He was addressing the start of a Presentation of Findings on the International Labour Organization/Public Services International Gender-Neutral Job Evaluation Project: Implementing ILO Convention 100 on Equal Remuneration.

He stressed: “At the occupational level, it is undeniable that men and women generally end up in certain occupations.  Women are over-represented in the clerical occupations and in service areas as shop workers. In contrast, men are over-represented in occupational categories like skilled agricultural workers, craft and related workers, plant and machine operators and assemblers. Similarly, at the industrial level, men are over-represented in construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries and transportation and storage.  Women, on the other hand, dominate service sectors such as finance, insurance, human health, human resource management and social work.” 

While querying whether this represented stereotyping, Mr. Jordan said, as a person with a majority of female relatives and as Minister with responsibility for Labour, he could not ignore the disparities which the research information showed.

The Minister suggested that for women and men to benefit equitably from economic growth, there was a need to recognize and acknowledge the disparities.  

And, he added, there needed to be an assessment as to whether these existed due to stereotyping, gender biases, institutional discrimination or as a result of disparate bargaining power between the sexes.

“Only then, after we have made this analysis and really drill down to understand what is happening in our communities, society and in our country, only then can we take the necessary steps to address the inequalities with some interventions that would need to be strategic and evidence-based, and that respond to the empirical data that the various surveys reveal,” he said.

While noting that the global picture pertaining to the gender pay gap, confirmed these disparities, he said studies conducted by both the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women, suggested women still get paid 23 per cent less than men.  

Minister Jordan said according to UN Women, the global pay gap expresses “the persistent inequalities between men and women in societies and in places of work”.

Contending this was often perpetuated based on societal norms, cultural orientation and the continued stereotyping of roles of men and women, he added: “Historically, men were seen as strong and as decision makers, whilst women have been assigned the roles as carers and nurturers.  These perceptions have filtered into the formal labour market, and at times have impacted, unfortunately, how the work by both men and women, but particularly by women, is both valued and remunerated.”

The Minister commended the research led by the Bureau of Workers Activities (ACTRAV) of the ILO and Public Services International to examine whether there is pay equity in Barbados with a focus on the health sector.

Acknowledging that it would be valuable to discover what the job evaluations conducted at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Psychiatric Hospital and the Ministry of Health and Wellness say about equal pay for the different sexes, he assured those gathered that his Ministry was committed to eliminating any inequalities and addressing any inequities that may exist in the labour market.

“We will do this in cooperation with our tripartite partners. Government believes that decent work must be a core principle in our national development because it balances the progress of economic growth with our strong desire for the people of Barbados to live fulfilling lives characterized by freedom, equity, security and dignity,” he stated.

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