A minimum wage for all categories of workers and a workers’ rights bill are being written, Minister of Labour Colin Jordan disclosed on Friday.
The anti-discrimination legislation now being drafted may be ready to go before lawmakers by month-end, he revealed.
Jordan was addressing a seminar at the Accra Beach resort on implementing the International Labour Organization Convention 100 on equal pay. The workshop was organised by the ILO and Public Services International.
He said: “My ministry is actively exploring an increase in minimum wage that would apply to all categories of workers.
“I strongly believe that the research being presented today would definitely inform all of these and better position my ministry to deliver the interventions that would make a positive impact on the labour market for both women and men.”
The current minimum wage in Barbados of $6.25, only applies to shop assistants under the Shops Act.
On the workers’ rights bill, Jordan said Government was working “assiduously” to complete “anti-discrimination legislation that would seek to protect both men and women from discrimination in relation to job creation, recruitment and employment.
The Chief Parliamentary Counsel, the Government’s legal drafter, has indicated that the bill should be “in hand before the end of this month”.
The Labour Minister did not indicate a timetable for the bill to be taken up by Parliament.
Jordan pointed out that while there were equal opportunities for both men and women in Barbados, statistics showed that more women were employed than men.
He also highlighted a number of females currently occupying high offices – the Governor General, Prime Minister, Director of Public Prosecution and Principal of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill.
But Jordan has warned that “if you look closely, the reality is that while women have made significant progress in Barbados, there are some stark realities demonstrating that issues of inequality and inequity remain”.
He explained: “Women do outnumber men, accounting for 52 per cent of the adult population, but in the last 25 years, the participation rate of women has remained lower than that of men, and unemployment among women was consistently higher than that of men, estimated at 11 per cent in 2018 compared to 8.4 per cent for men.”
While women are generally more highly educated, which would suggest they are earning more than men, the Minister said available earnings information for 2018 showed that women “dominated the lower average weekly earnings categories of less than $500, accounting for 54 per cent”
The Minister continued: “However, for the higher earning categories of over $500 per week, men had the majority at 56 per cent.
“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 undergraduate and Post Graduate qualifications, accounting for 67 per cent of that year’s graduating class.
“It is also true that the employment rate is lower for women at all levels of education, even tertiary where in 2017, 69 per cent of the women with this level of education were employed compare to 75 per cent of their men counterparts.”
The Labour Minister pointed out that women were over-represented in clerical occupations and as service or shop workers.
In contrast, he said, men were over-represented among skilled agricultural workers, craft and related workers, and plant and machine operators and assemblers, and at the industrial level, with an overwhelming majority in construction, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries and transportation and storage.
Jordan continued: “Women, on the other hand, dominate service sectors such as finance and insurance or human health and social work.
“Ladies and gentlemen, is this the lingering effects of societal stereotyping?
“I cannot afford to ignore the disparities that the statistics show.
“For women and men to benefit equitably from economic growth, we must acknowledge these disparities and access whether they exist due to gender biases, stereotypes and prejudices, some forms of institutionalized discrimination or disparate bargaining power between the sexes.
“Only then can we take the steps to address these inequalities with strategic, evidence-based policies and programmes that are gender responsive.
“You have my assurance that my ministry is committed to eliminating any inequalities and addressing inequities that exits in the labour market.
“We will do this in collaboration with our tripartite partners.”