Women in the Netherlands nowadays are generally better educated than men. They also work more hours per week than a few years ago. Yet, women are paid less and move on to higher positions less frequently than men do. On average, a Dutch woman loses out on €300.000 during her employed life.
There is a gender pay gap in the Netherlands: working women earn around 13,7% less than working men. Part of this gap can be explained. For example, women often work parttime, men more often have a managerial position, and women work more in sectors that pay lower salaries. This uncorrected pay gap is calculated by comparing the average gross hourly wage of all male and female employees.
However, there is still a part of the gender pay gap that cannot be explained. This is called the corrected pay gap, which amounted to a 4% gap in the government sector and a 7% gap in the business sector in 2020. The corrected pay gap takes factors into account that make a difference in the position of women and men on the job market, such as a difference in job positions and job sectors. It is important to keep on challenging this difference in wages: equal work deserves equal pay.
Fighting for equal pay does work, however hard this may seem. Earlier this year employees of British supermarket chain Tesco won their indictment against the company. The mainly male employees in the distribution centres structurally got paid more than the mainly female employees who worked in the stores. The plaintiffs found this salary discrepancy unacceptable because the positions in the distribution centre and the store are essentially identical and should be offered the same salary. This shows that pointing out wage differences and fighting to get it corrected does bring about change.
1973: A strike for equal pay
Dutch history is full of attempts to draw attention to the problem of unequal wages, including the following action. In March 1973, the men and women of the Optilon zipper factory in the place Winschoten laid down their work. This was partly in protest against the unequal pay for work done by men and women. The strike got national attention and union women as well as the Dolle Mina’s [‘Mad Mina’s’] declare their solidarity to the strike. In May 1973 the Dolle Mina’s launch their ‘Werkende Wijvenplan’ [working bitches plan], which was focussed on equal pay for equal work, equal opportunities in education and vocation, individualisation of taxation, free day-care for children, and communal living facilities.
Equal Pay Day
Even though it has been illegal from the 1st of March 1980 to pay different salaries to people who do the same work in the Netherlands, it still happens. Equal Pay Day draws attention to this every year. Because when you do the maths, Dutch women work for free from the 11th of November to the end of the year. Therefore, Equal Pay Day emphasises the fact that the gender pay gap still exists and that something needs to be done by both the government and businesses.
Fortunately, the issue is increasingly coming to the attention of the media and the broader public. Sophie van Gool recently wrote and published a book about the subject: Waarom vrouwen minder verdienen dan mannen en wat we eraan kunnen doen [Why women earn less money than men and what we can do about it]. In this book she does away with the many myths and opinions about the problem. She also calls for everyone to face the facts and to make equal pay reality for everyone.
Even though this book is about the Netherlands it is (at least for now) only available in Dutch, there are some similar books in English. For example: ‘Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men – and What to do About It’ by Evelyn Murphy or ‘What Works: Gender Equality by Design’ by Iris Bohnet. Both are also available in Atria’s library to loan and read.