The EU and the Gender Pay Gap in Malta: The Way Forward - Discussion with MEPs
The higher the level of education, the bigger the gender pay gap: gender pay gap discussion with MEPs at UoM highlights disparities.
In an in-depth public discussion on the gender pay gap in Malta, MEPs, academics, government representatives, and members of the public at the University of Malta on Friday morning dissected the wide salary differences that exist in Malta and expressed frustration with the disparity between the genders, in particular those in the higher echelons of employment. Almost 60% of Malta's graduates are female, and more women than men graduated from the University of Malta since 1997, and yet the top positions in the six major categories of employment are dominated by men, as are 66% of the academic positions on the UoM's staff.
The gender pay gap increases with the level of education – tertiary-level educated women are even more likely to be paid less for equal work than women with basic or secondary education, lagging 23.3% behind their male counterparts.
The debate included various interventions from the public on, amongst others, the need to align school hours to working parents' needs, the need for joint parental responsibility and the need to further make use of digitalisation, and flexible and alternative ways of employment to attract more women back into the labour force.
Discussion was sparked by two eye-opening presentations. The first, delivered by Ms Joslyn Magro, from the National Statistics Office gave the actual figures that show up the differences between the public and the private sector. This was based on 2014 statistics and a new survey will be carried out this year. Dr JosAnn Cutajar compared the situation in Malta to what is being done in other countries such as Iceland and New Zealand.
MEP Francis Zammit Dimech observed that the topic was very much at the forefront of the European Parliament’s agenda and insisted that the key to improvement lies in transparency. He referred in particular to the 8 key factors of the EU’s Action plan on the issue, which emphasise, among others, the importance of providing employees with the right to access information and to give more value to women’s skills and responsibilities.
MEP Roberta Metsola spoke about the resistance amongst employers towards regulatory change and how Malta should live up to its legal obligations and report regularly on the gender pay gap. She highlighted in particular, the situation of a certain category of women over 60 in Malta, who had stopped working once married, are now not married any more and have been left destitute as a result. Furthermore she referred to the culture of secrecy which made women fear to speak out on abuse and unfair practices in the work place. Her comments were echoed by participants from the National Council of Women, who offer training courses to enable women to return to the work force, easing such situations.
Dr Anna Borg from the Centre of Labour Studies tackled the current EU proposal on work-life balance – noting that a good proposal still has room for improvement particularly concerning parental leave being paid on the same rate as sick leave, that would eventually signify an 80% reduction in wages based on the rates applicable in Malta. Many voices spoke up to oppose to oppose this part of the EU proposal.
Mr Andrew Beane outlined the effort being made by HSBC to reduce the gap in terms of the top jobs in the company, whereas Dr JP Baldacchino (UMASA) and Pro-Rector Prof Godfrey Baldacchino outlined their firm belief that only collective bargaining and action could bring about a difference to the current situation.
On behalf of the government, Mr Silvan Agius (MEAE) pointed out that 14 years ago, the big issue in Malta was how far it lagged behind in female participation in the workforce. Referencing two draft bills - on equality and human rights – that will mainstream equality, as opposed to acting for equality on the basis of complaints, he cited improvement whilst noting that this in itself is not enough. He also mentioned how the future debate should be shaped in collaboration with rather than in an antagonistic approach towards employers.
Pro-Rector Dr Godfrey Baldacchino summing up the debate, identified the "pressure points" as "infrastructure, pensions and opportunities" for tackling and eliminating the gender pay gap, which he underlined "will get worse before it gets better" as women who return to the workforce are likely to do so at lower scales. Unions scrutinizing the pay gap and more women in the higher echelons, he identified as part of the solution.
The discussion was organised by the European Parliament Office in Valletta and the Gender Studies Department of the University of Malta, in response to calls from the public for more informed debate following the women's day debate in March. Participants at this event, who also called for more public discussion on similar issues, included union representatives, women's groups and NGOs as well as students.