Equal Pay For Equal Work: Indian Gender Wage Gap


Fight for equal pay for equal work has been going on for years. The concept of equality is embedded in our preamble and has helped in securing the rights of an individual. But the fight is still going on, equal pay for equal work has still not been achieved.

The meaning of this term is “where all things are equal that is where all relevant considerations are same persons holding identical posts may not be treated differently in the matter of their pay merely because they belong to different departments”.

There are many reasons for unequal pay in the industries; one of the most debatable is gender pay gap. India ranks 112 in global gender pay gap report by world economic forum. Different countries have implemented different laws for combating this problem.


The first country to establish this principle in their constitution was Mexico (1917). The principle of equal pay for equal work is integral part of labour department in U.S.A. it was specifically introduced to improve the status of workers. The movements around the world have played a huge role in ensuring the equal pay specifically the socialist movements.

In the early agrarian society the labours were in better position because they owned the land but later in the feudal system the condition of labour deteriorated as the land lords owned most of agricultural land and the landless labour was forced to work under them.

But during the industrial revolution that started in Britain the pay gap increased between men and women even in the socialist countries like soviet union women earned 62 percent as much as men.

For ensuring maximum profits the owner of industries made labours work for hours with minimum pay and in unhygienic conditions. This became trigger for many labour movements in England and across the world.

Another reason for wage gap is due to gender discrimination, reason for this starts while negotiating salary. In countries like USA there is no fixed pay the employee usually have to negotiate their salary.

Wage Gap Aaround World

According to a study conducted by Harvard business school while negotiating salary women tend to get nervous and are criticized if they negotiate higher salary. It was found that 50 percent of men had negotiated their salary as compared to 1/8 of women. It also found out that social cost of negotiation was more for women than men.

Recent data has suggested that America’s workaholic culture is harming women more than men. Traditionally industries in U.S.A were based on assumption that the employee’s have partners that will take care of their children and family at home.

In countries like Sweden and Norway the gender pay gap is very less. The reason for this is that Sweden has great concern for equality of sexes. Maternity as well as paternity leave has been more extended only in Sweden. From 1937 Sweden has had laws to provide job protection after childbirth.

These laws have made working for women and people from different races easier in Sweden and many western countries but still the problem persists.

International Law on Fair and Equal Wages

Under Article 7(a)(i) International covenant on economic social and cultural rights states must ensure “Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind, in particular women being guaranteed conditions of work not inferior to those enjoyed by men, with equal pay for equal work.”

Article 4(3) of European social charter also recognises the right of men and women workers to equal pay for work of equal value.

The article 2 of equal remuneration convention has also recognized this principle 1. Each Member shall, by means appropriate to the methods in operation for determining rates of remuneration, promote and, in so far as is consistent with such methods, ensure the application to all workers of the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value. The international law even has secured the rights of an individual to earn equal pay for the work he/she has done.

Indian Law

Equal pay for equal work is enshrined in Indian constitution under article 39(d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women. There are other provisions also which help women secure equal pay for equal work:

  1. Article 15. (1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
  2. Article 16. (1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.

No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State:

  1. Article 39(a): The State shall direct its policy towards securing all citizens men and women, equally, the right to means of livelihood.
  2. Article 42: 42. The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
  3. Article 51 (A) (e): To renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women.

These articles make sure that a person is paid and gets employment irrespective of their gender, caste, religion or colour. But the world economic forum report suggest that India ranks 112 on it’s report on wage equality.

In 2019 Government of India had directed the P.S.U’s to implement the order of equal pay for equal work for casual workers. The supreme court in case of Randhir singh vs Union of India held that equal pay for equal work though is not a fundamental right but can be enforced through constitutional remedies under article 32 and is a constitutional goal. The principle of equal pay for equal work was even applicable to daily wage workers as other permanent employees in the department employed to do identical work. But there are conditions while paying equal wages to anybody as held by Supreme court that equal pay for equal work does not mean that all the members of cadre must receive the same pay package, irrespective of their seniority, source of recruitment, educational qualification and various other requirements of service. It was also held that granting a higher wage to junior would be arbitrary.

In the case of state of west Bengal and others v Hari narayan bhowal and others the supreme court held that unless a very clear case is made out and the court is satisfied that the scale provided to a group of persons on basis of the material produced before it amounts to discrimination without any justification. The court should not take upon itself the responsibility of fixation of scales of pay.

In the case of Government of west Bengal v. Tarun K. Roy the Supreme Court held that the principle of equal pay for equal work would not apply where educational qualifications and considerations such as source of recruitment and nature of work done vary between two classes of employee, although nature of work done is same.

The government had introduced equal remuneration act in 1976 to ensure equal wages to everybody. But this act will be replaced by code on wages act. The definition of employer and employee has been expanded under this act, and is now applicable to both organised and unorganised sector. Minimum pay under this act has been defined for every sector and it’s member except for the member of armed forces. The definition of wages include basic pay dearness allowance and retaining allowance. Under the act no discrimination is permitted on basis of person’s gender. For minimum wages state government can set wages by region but they cannot be lower than the national wages. Further the wages for overtime will not be less than twice the normal wages. This act can therefore assure payment of proper wages to employees.

The problem that comes that the labour laws do not reach at the lower levels like daily wage workers or small businesses. There was recorded 34 percent wage gap between men and women according to the report of international labour organisation. States with the highest wages for casual workers was Kerela, Jammu Kashmir and Punjab. The equal and fair wages also depend on trade unions. If there is more density of trade unions in a sector the better wages will be paid to employees of that industry.

In India the gender pay gap starts from education there are still less women in colleges and another reason is their share in the parliament. So therefore this problem does not come forward easily in parliament. The world economic report also said that it might take women 257 years to achieve equal pay. In India people are even under paid if they are from lower caste. A person from lower caste was found to earn less than person of upper caste. The people from lower caste were found to have lack of access to higher paying jobs most of them are employed in unorganised sectors and are not guaranteed equal pay under the law. Therefore there is a need for strong action by government in order to ensure fair wages to everyone.


As we saw that people face discrimination when wages are being paid to them. Whether it is discrimination on grounds of sex, colour, caste or family background all of them should be tackled immediately in order to ensure equality at work place.

India still has a long way to go to achieve the goals of equality for all which are enshrined in the constitution of India. The various ministries should coordinate their efforts in collaboration with companies and trade unions to ensure equality.


  1. The governments should come up with strict laws and punishment in order to ensure equality.
  2. The Scandinavian countries have already ensured equality at workplace for it’s employees. As it was held by Supreme Court that unequal wages can only be paid on basis of working hours, educational qualification.
  3. People should be educated on this topic
  4. They should question their employers if they are paid lower wage than rest of employees.
  5. Companies should be transparent while paying wages to their employees
  6. The information regarding this should be easily available to employees as well as people who are going to work in that particular company.
  7. The minimum wages should be raised as to ensure that at least a person is paid a decent wage for their living. 
16 December 2021
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