EPIC Technical Meeting Autumn 2021 - Reducing gender pay inequalities in the health and care sector for a fairer COVID-19 recovery

16 Nov 2021

On 20 and 22 October, the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) held the first two of four virtual sessions of its members-only annual technical meeting. The two remaining sessions will be held on 18 November and 13 December.

With women making up over 70 per cent of workers health and care sector, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the numerous difficulties they face, including low pay, long working hours, poor occupational safety and health, and a high incidence of violence and harassment. The focus of these first two session was therefore on addressing the challenge of low wages and poor working conditions in the sector.

During the discussions, representatives from governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as international organizations, highlighted the specific features of the health and care sector in terms of the gender pay gap and working conditions. They stressed the importance of social dialogue, and shared a variety of best practices enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic and related recovery plans.

Key takeaways from the sessions include:

• The essential role that the health and care sector play in the normal functioning of societies and economies and the undervaluation of their paid work.

• The adoption of a number of important measures, which contributed to greater public awareness and recognition of the importance of strong and resilient public health and care services.

• The role of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination that are reflected in low pay and poor working conditions of many workers in the health and care sector.

• Longstanding decent work deficits including long working hours, low pay, poor occupational safety and health, and incidents of violence and harassment.

• Recognition of the contribution of health and care workers, as well as the need to invest adequately in the sector to build more resilient, inclusive equal societies and economies.

• The need for public investments in the health and care sector – a key driver for economic recovery, contributing to generating jobs, especially for youth, women, and women from disadvantaged backgrounds.

• The important role of social dialogue with workers and employers joining forces to negotiate better working conditions, including pay equity, for all workers. The importance of collective agreements and job evaluation methods and tools.