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Fight against wage gap day celebrated for the first time in Georgia

By Levan Abramishvili
Monday, August 26
This year, Georgia’s Women’s Movement marked the first-ever day of the fight against the wage gap on August 23. According to the statistics of GEOSTAT, published this March, the difference between the average salary of men and women in Georgia is 36%. This means that women make 64 tetri for every Georgian lari (GEL) a man makes, despite the same efforts.

The day chosen to mark the day is symbolic since August 23 was the day when the 64% of the business days were up, meaning that from that day onwards, until the end of the year, women work ‘for free’.

Women’s Movement issued a manifest to mark the occasion.

“Studies show that high wage difference directly increases the number of economically inactive women; the high wage gap affects child poverty – the poorer the mother, the more hardship children have to endure; the wage gap makes women economically dependent on the family, which in turn increases the risk of violence against women,” reads the manifest.

The organization identifies some of the main causes of the wage difference, including the wage discrimination by gender in the workplace; the burden of the unpaid domestic labor; the ‘glass ceiling’, a barrier to advancement in a profession affecting women and the segregation of women’s and men’s jobs.

“High level of economically inactive women is unjustified in the context of poverty in the country (according to GEOSTAT, 42% of women are economically inactive). The Government must ensure non-discriminatory wage and labor conditions that will empower women and boost the country’s economy. The best experience of foreign countries shows that the pay gap can be overcome through specific reforms,” reads the statement of the Women’s Movement.

The wage gap was the main topic of discussion during the anti-occupation show on August 23. The show is being held daily on the Rustaveli Avenue since July 22, after the change in the format of the anti-occupation rallies that have been going on for months now, as per the organizer’s decision.

The guests of the show were Baia Pataraia, a human rights defender and the Executive Director of Union Sapari, one of the leading women's rights organization and the member of Women’s Movement and Gvantsa Khonelidze, a researcher who studied the wage gap in Georgia.

During the show, Baia Pataraia spoke about the reasoning behind the established day.

“People aren’t even looking for employment, because they don’t see the meaning and opportunity in it. 42% of women in Georgia are economically inactive. When we talk about overcoming poverty in Georgia, it is unimaginable if 42% of women will be inactive. Then who will create the economy? Who will work and who will create revenue? One of the main reasons women are economically inactive is the injustice they face in the labor market, including in remuneration,” said Pataraia.

The Public Defender of Georgia positively assessed the sparking of discussion surrounding the wage gap and welcomed the campaign launched by the Women’s Movement.

“In Georgia, the challenge remains to ensure gender equality in labor relations and economic empowerment of women, which in turn harms women’s rights, including increasing their vulnerability to discrimination and domestic violence,” reads the statement issued by the Ombudsman’s office.

The Public Defender states that according to the 2018 Global Index of Gender Inequality, Georgia moved from 45th place to 69th out of 159 countries in terms of the equal pay. The average income is twice lower for women, whereas in the unpaid domestic work, women’s contribution is twice higher than men’s (women – 33.3, men – 14.7).

The Ombudsman’s statement also underscores the issue of stereotypes that are prevalent in the Georgian society, which sets gendered barriers for women’s participation in social life. According to the Public Defender, “the existence of obstacles to financial income may in some cases lead to social marginalization of a certain group of women.” It is also noted that the economic situation of women is unquestionably linked to domestic violence. For women, one of the main difficulties of escaping domestic violence is the financial dependence on the abuser or her family.

The Public Defender states that the measures taken by the State in terms of economic empowerment of women and improvement of labor rights are insufficient.

“The Public Defender of Georgia calls on the relevant Government Agencies to become actively involved in addressing gender pay gap issues and to plan effective measures to reduce the current imbalance and increase women’s economic participation,” concludes the statement.

On their part, in the manifest, the Women’s Movement also urges the Government to take the following steps in addressing the wage gap issue:

• Prohibit wage discrimination under the Labor Code;
• Develop an action plan for the fight against the wage gap, which would identify the factors creating the wage gap and defines mechanisms to combat them;
• The State should attract and carry out investments in the development of the social infrastructure, which would aid the redistribution of women’s domestic burden and create additional jobs;
• Develop vocational training programs tailored to housewives and economically inactive women;
• Minister of Economy Natia Turnava should take the responsibility to develop and introduce a strategy for economic empowerment of women.

The wage gap is another example of deep-rooted systemic problems that are so characteristic of Georgia. This is where some of the most corrosive issues intersect – the poor condition of women’s rights, widespread poverty and complete deregulation of the labor market. The system, as it works today in Georgia, completely disregards the rights of the workers in favor of the employees. Therefore it is not hard for issues like the wage gap and workplace deaths of construction workers to take severe forms and scales that they have in the country.