UN applauds Swiss efforts to reduce gender pay gap

Despite being enshrined in the constitution since 1981, Swiss pay equality among men and women is still not a reality. Keystone

A Swiss initiative to close the pay gap between men and women has been recognised by the United Nations, which has bestowed a Public Service Award on a government department responsible for gender equality issues.

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Three years ago, the Federal Office for Gender Equality launched plans to achieve a fairer distribution in wages between the sexes. The UN says this policy to level the playing field constitutes a significant contribution towards its Sustainable Development Goals.

On Tuesday, government proposals to close the gender salary gap cleared a hurdle when the Senate approved its measures. They agreed that private sector companies with at least 100 employees should be obliged to report on the salary levels of male and female staff every four years. It rejected an earlier plan to impose this measure on firms with at least 50 employees. The issue must still be discussed in the House of Representatives.

The second string of the Swiss initiative is a charter for public service agencies that would allow for regular audits to test pay equality.

The proposal still has some way to go before reaching the statute books, but it appears to be gaining political momentum.

A 2014 survey by the Federal Statistical Office put the gap at 18.9% between 2010 and 2012. While some of this disparity can be explained by differences in experience and qualifications, the government insists that more than 7% of the wage gap is simply discrimination.

Equal pay between men and women has been anchored in the Swiss constitution since 1981, a principle that was sharpened by the 1996 Gender Equality Act. Progress to achieving this ideal has been slow, but the gender equality office and its 2015 initiative has been recognized by the UN as a catalyst for faster progress.

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