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Equal work for equal pay

Post by on Wednesday, March 16, 2022

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Equal work for equal pay has been a long fought war between the sexes. Being paid equally for equal work done is not only a fundamental right, it has also been recognized as a constitutional goal under articles 14, 16 and 39 (d) of the Constitution of India by the Supreme Court of India. In fact, Charlize Theron, the famous Hollywood actress has said this is a good time for us to bring this to a place of fairness, and girls need to know that being a feminist is a good thing. It doesn’t mean that you hate men. It means equal rights. If you are doing the same job, you should be compensated and treated the same way.


Equal work connotes the work of equal value. In an organization, where there are employees at the same position, doing the similar nature of work irrespective of their sex, colour, caste, or creed are entitled to the same remuneration. The principle has arisen from the basic concept of equality. At the same time, the preamble of the Indian Constitution secures equality of status and opportunity. The state has the duty “to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of national life”.

Despite having the knowledge of how crippling it is for the growth of an economy, it is unfortunate how wage-gap still remains in our society. Equality as imbibed in Art 14 of the Indian Constitution, included within its ambit the concept of pay parity. Pay parity says that there must be equality in wage/ pay scale for similar position and nature of work in any organization irrespective of gender, colour, caste, creed or religion. This creates a balance and harmony in the society thereby providing justice to all. In spite of this provision, there have been several issues of discrimination at the workplace. We need to make equal pay and equal opportunity for women and girls a reality so women's rights are human rights once and for all.

The fact that pay parity does not exist is more of a social challenge than an organisational one. This gap in the pay is even more stark in a developing country like ours. For a long period of time, the people in disadvantageous positions were made to believe that they deserve the unequal wage being paid to them by virtue of belonging to a particular class, caste, or gender. 

This wage disparity is not only against the very basis of equality, but it also has far reaching social and economic repercussions. It has been found in a study that wage inequality vis à vis women is more in the public sector jobs than in the private sector ones. This inequality further interferes with the social and economic status of women in India.

The use of the term equality can be traced back to the 15th century when Aristotle talked about equality, he was referring to formal equality wherein equals were to be treated equally and his definition excluded general equality. As per this definition, for a similar nature of work, wages should be dispersed equally irrespective of ones sex, age race or caste. 

The next mention of equal pay can be traced to The United Nations Charter which was also the first treaty that mentioned- the ‘ dignity and worth of human person’ as well as ‘the equal rights of men and women’ in its preamble. Further still, the International Labour Organization has come up with many conventions that talk about granting equality and removing discriminations at the workplace.

In the Indian context, the rule of Equality as given under Art 14 of The Indian Constitution prohibits any special treatment or privilege and ensures that equal people are treated alike in equal circumstances. This principle of equality is however subject to the fact that reasonable classification may be done in order to reach the decision whether the principle of equality has been infringed or not.This permissible classification must not be arbitrary, evasive or artificial. The Supreme Court of India in the case of Trilok Nath has made a distinction between the degree holders and the diploma holders for the purpose of promotion and increment wherein it was held that the diploma holders had to fulfil an additional requirement of seven years work experience in order to fit in the set criteria. In this case, the Supreme Court held that the set classification was just and reasonable as it was done on the basis of educational qualification.

As per the judgements given by the Supreme Court of India, several grounds have been held to be proper for creating wage differences. These may be summarised as follows:

1. Educational qualification was held to be a valid ground for wage difference. 

2. Even for similar posts, if there is a difference in nature of work done and extension of reliability and responsibility of one more than the other person. 

3. A rational basis to give a higher wage to a junior is also identified under the test of reasonable classification.

4. If duties and responsibilities are not the same, even though functions are similar.  

?In order to examine whether the work in question is of similar nature to a particular work or not, there are three considerations:

?1.?The Authority would need to take a broad view;

?2.?And examine the differences on the basis of practical importance since the concept of similar work implies differences in detail and equality cannot be undermined on any inconsequential grounds.

?3.?It is important to look at the duties which are actually performed rather than just the theoretical ones which are on paper.

?Any differentiation that happens due to certain reasonable classification is permissible, however, any pay gap that is a result of gender bias is totally against the concept of equality. As per the Monster Salary Index on Gender for 2016, women in India earn 25% less than men. The legislature along with the judiciary of the country has been taking active steps to rectify the same. Any rule/ regulation that is gender bias has been struck off by the courts in India. 

The Supreme Court of India held a provision in the service rules guided towards female employees that they needed to seek the permission of the government before they enter into the marriage of alliance as discriminatory and unconstitutional. In the famous air hostess case, where the rules of retirement consisted of marriage within four years of service and first pregnancy as the grounds for retirement, the provision was held to be arbitrary and violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Indian Constitution. Recently the Supreme Court also directed the Government to grant permanent commission to women short service commissions officers which has been held to be a landmark victory for people asking for equality in India.

The problem of gender gap is not only present in India but is also rampant in the developed countries of the world. In 2018, the World Economic Forum gave its report saying that the gender pay gap will take 202 years to close. Women globally are paid 63% of what men get. Yemen, Syria, and Iraq showed the biggest pay gaps while the UK ranked 50th out of 149 countries on the gender pay gap. A 2019 study shows that India’s female labour force participation is 27 % while that of men is 96%. The study also cited some major factors for this low rate:


1. Patriarchy, still prevalent in the society that interferes with the choices of women, their mobility and freedom to work. 

2. Discrimination and harassment at workplaces with women.

3. Lack of quality jobs as per the skills of women.


The problem also arises as when we pay women less than men, we’re telling women their work isn’t as valuable. We’re all equally valuable. And we should be paid equally. Equal pay isn't just a women's issue; when women get equal pay, their family incomes rise and the whole family benefits. This further results in the overall growth of the Nation. Therefore, it is important to understand that while legislation has been brought and we are thriving to achieve equal pay for equal work irrespective of gender, wage justice is still not achieved. It will be achieved only when the social, economic, and environmental standards along with the personal choices of women develop and broaden.


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