Still Inequalities In Gender Pay and Work in Barbados

While women have made significant strides in Barbados, there are still issues of inequality and inequity, says Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan.

The Minister stressed this last Friday at the Accra Beach Hotel, Rockley, Christ Church, as he addressed 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.

Noting that there was a popular narrative in Barbados that suggests there is equal opportunity for both men and women in the areas of education and employment, he said: “This would suggest that there are no real issues in terms of gender inequality in Barbados.  Statistics show that more women are employed than men.  In fact, some would argue quite strongly that women are holding their own in senior positions such as CEOs and General Managers. And, a colleague actually told me, recently, there are many more women at the level of Permanent Secretary and Deputy Permanent Secretary than there are men, in Barbados.  The person who told me that was a man who was saying there are an endangered species.”

He added that this island’s Governor General, Prime Minister, Director of Public Prosecutions, Principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and six members of Cabinet are all women.

Furthermore, he pointed out that university graduates were predominantly women and there was no forced marriage, female genital mutilation or other extreme forms of violation of women’s human rights, all leading to suggestions that all was well in Barbados.

However, Mr. Jordan urged a closer look at the reality. He noted that while women had made significant progress here; were enjoying a level of exposure and had reached standards that they hadn’t in years past, there were still demonstrated instances of inequalities and inequities.

“Women do outnumber men, in the population, 52 per cent, but in the last 25 years, the participation rate of women has remained lower than that of men, and unemployment among women has been consistently higher than that of men, estimated at 11 per cent in 2018, compared to 8.4 per cent for men.

“It is true that women are more likely than men to have tertiary education. In 2018, 684 Barbadian women graduated from the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies with either undergraduate and post graduate qualifications, amounting for more than two-thirds (67%) of the graduating class. But it is also true that the employment rate for women is lower at all levels of education, even in tertiary, where, in 2017, 69 per cent of the women with this level of education were employed compared to 75 per cent of their men counterparts,” he said.

It was also noted that since women in Barbados were more highly educated, one would logically expect them to be earning more than men. While stating higher paying jobs generally required greater skills and more years of education, he stressed the available earnings information, however, showed something interesting. 

“At the lower average weekly earnings level, and the average used is $500 per week, women dominate, accounting for 54 per cent. For the higher earning categories of over $500 per week, men are the majority at 56 per cent,” Mr. Jordan said.