A majority of working women in India earn less when compared with men for the same job despite a constitutional obligation, and this has prompted a Rajya Sabha MP to move a private member bill to enforce the "Constitutional goal" of equal pay for equal work and extend it to corporates and NGOs.
The Prevention of Gender Pay Gap Bill, 2018, was introduced in the Rajya Sabha recently by Congress MP Husain Dalwai seeking to address and curb disparity in wages in the labour and employment sector when it comes to women and transgenders. India is ranked 108 out of 144 countries on the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap report 2017.
The Bill says the gender pay gap is one of the “most crucial and the most disregarded” gender issues in the country where women earn 25% less than the men. Women earned a median gross hourly salary of Rs 259.8 compared to men's Rs 345.8 in 2016, though the gap had reduced by two percentage points since 2015.
Acknowledging that "gender still plays a pivotal role in determining salaries", the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states Article 39(D) of the Constitution (equal pay for equal work) has now "assumed the status of fundamental right in service jurisprudence having regard to the Constitutional mandate of Article 14 (Equality before law) and 16 (Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment)".
It notes that the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, attempts to address this issue but is "insufficient, selective and limited in its scope" as it is only applicable to any establishment, factory, mine oilfield, plantation, port, railway company or shop either government or privately owned covered under the Payment of Gratuity Act. It "does not include corporate organisations, NGOs and others with managerial and supervisory staff that do not engage in physical labour" as well as transgender employees.
"This Bill attempts to give effect to these constitutional provisions. It is essential to ensure that work done by different genders is valued fairly to achieve gender equality. It is also a core component of decent work," it stated.
The Bill also talks about research findings on gender discrimination and increase in pay gap with women's experience, age, educational qualification and a rise in the occupational hierarchy. "Since women are overburdened with a disproportionate share of household chores, employers discriminate against women as they are perceived to be less productive. Career breaks and socialisation also add to the gender pay gap," it said.
Arguing for an equal package, it also speaks specifically about transgenders. "The situation is similar to transgender employees. Marginalisation and discrimination pushes the transgender community down the socio-economic ladder when it comes to social and economic empowerment. This also translates into discrimination in remuneration at the workplace," it added.