Legislation to make gender wage differences more visible

In December 2000, preparatory work began on new Danish legislation to oblige employers to provide trade unions with wage data so that they will be better equipped to analyse gender pay differences and draw up action plans for equal pay. The government decided to act after a joint committee set up by the social partners failed to come up with any proposals in this area.

In a study carried out in spring 2000, the Danish National Institute for Social Research (Socialforskningsinstituttet, SFI) found that there is still a wage gap of about 16%-17% between men and women (DK0006182F).The study concluded that only a small part of this wage gap is attributable to factors such as education/training, seniority or family status, with the remainder unaccounted for.

Also in spring 2000, five laws relating to equality were consolidated into three laws - though the Equal Pay Act was not included in this process. The Minister for Equal Opportunities, Jytte Andersen, suggested new legislation on greater wage transparency, making it possible to obtain general data on pay from employers, and not only data required in connection with specific court cases concerning equal pay, as at present. However, the Minister of Labour, Ove Hygum, left it to the social partners themselves to find a solution which would better highlight wage differences between women and men. The Confederation of Danish Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO) and the Danish Employers' Confederation (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA) had already set up a committee to look into gender wage discrimination between men and women in connection with the renewal of collective agreements in spring 2000 (DK0002167F). However, by late 2000 the social partners had not yet come up with any initiatives in this area, so the Minister of Labour has decided to introduce legislation, with the Ministry of Labour initiating preparatory work in December. One of the objectives is that the new law - following the Swedish model - will impose a duty on employers to provide trade unions with wage data so that they will be better equipped to analyse pay conditions and draw up action plans for equal pay.

LO has expressed satisfaction that employers will now be obliged to justify how pay is set and relate this to more systematic job descriptions. In this way, gender pay imbalances - or their absence - will become visible. In a statement to the industry section of the Union of Commercial and Clerical Employees (Forbundet for Handels- og Kontorfunktionærer i Danmark/industri, HK/industri), Minister Hygum said that his idea is that employee representatives and wage negotiators should have access to such wage data.

"The reason why equal pay has not yet become a reality is that nobody knows the wages of individual employees. This is now to be changed and, at the same time, the wage statistics will be improved so that employees can compare their wages," said the Minister of Labour. It is planned that the bill will be presented to parliament in February 2001, but no draft text is yet available.

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