Actualidad Argentina

Change towards gender equality at work

By Laura Fernández Lord and Lucía Rojo, Digital & Customer Experience FMBBVA

The Gender Equality Bill was presented before the Senate and the House in March, with ten articles that amend the Employment Contract Law. In effect, they tackle gender equality at work, and with respect to salary and benefits; work-life balance, leave, maternity and child care; and the supervision of contractual relations between employer and employee by the Ministry of Work, Employment & Social Security.

The proposal is a clear example of the new Argentine government’s desire to introduce reforms, especially in a year in which Argentina hosts the W20, a parallel forum to the G20, which pursues the inclusion of women in digital, labour, financial and rural areas. In the case of employment inclusion*, the W20 has asked each member state for an action plan that includes measures to achieve a 25% increase in the economic participation of women by 2025 and to close the salary gap.

The Bill appears to be a response to the measures agreed by the W20: (1) to call on unions and companies to protect women from any form of violence or harassment in the workplace; (2) to adapt to the jobs of the future and the new forms of work (remote-work); (3) to roll out the labour standards of the ILO and reduce informal jobs; (4) to recognise, reduce and redistribute the disproportionate load of non-remunerated care and domestic work; and (5) to implement parental policies and other equivalent paid and non-transferable family leave.

According to the latest study**, in Argentina, only 56% of women contribute to the formal labour force compared with 82% of men. And while there are 19% more women than men in the technical and administrative ranks of organisations, in senior and/or management posts, there are 56% less women than men. This clearly suggests the existence of “glass ceilings”***. Furthermore, the pay gap between men and women doing the same job is 23.5%****, putting Argentina among the top 20% of economies with the largest pay gap in the world.

The Bill includes a principle of Strict Pay Equality, which would make Argentina the second country in the world to specifically regulate equal pay for equal jobs done by men or women (the first was Iceland in January 2018)*****. In fact, Argentine law already established equality between workers in conditions and remuneration in article 14 bis of the Constitution******, but at the time, no corrective or disciplinary measure were envisaged for breaches of the article. They are not now either.

Argentine legislation also deals with work-life balance, regulating remote work and reductions in the working day to care for children under four. It also modifies and extends remunerated leave, including, for the first time, time off to do the paper work required with the competent authorities for those wishing to adopt children; to undergo assisted reproduction techniques and procedures; and to deal with gender-based violence*******.

Laws can discriminate against women in the workplace********, and although Argentina has shown the will to guarantee gender equality at work, its legislation still has a lot of issues to resolve, such as allowing women to take on tasks that may be classed as “painful, dangerous or unhealthy”. The law currently maintains that there are exceptional, objective reasons to restrict or prohibit that such work be carried out by women. Neither has the law adapted to a modern concept of the household. It still does not recognise leave or reduction of the working day in cases involving members of the household other than children under four.

With this Bill, Argentina takes the lead in its intention of achieving equal opportunities at the workplace for men and women, while it dresses up for the visit of the G20.

* Strand on Employment Inclusion of women (W20, Argentina): to improve the quality of life of urban and rural women through their enhanced participation in the labour market in conditions of equality

** The Global Gender Gap Report 2017, World Economic Forum.

*** The term “glass ceiling” explains the hidden constraints faced by women in their professional promotion within organisations. Coined in 1978 by Marilyn Loden.

**** Women in the labour market. Ministry of Work, Employment and Social Security. The Office of the Presidency of the Nation (Argentina).

***** The first country to enact a law an pay equality was Iceland. Iceland. Equal opportunities and gender equality. Magazine Progreso

****** ”Work in its diverse forms will enjoy the protection of the law, which will ensure that workers have: dignified and equal working conditions, a limited working day; paid rest and holidays; fair remuneration; mobile minimum wage; equal pay for the same job"

******* The Bill uses this text to define what the law understands by gender-based violence and the requirements for the employer to grant this leave.

******** Argument included in the World Bank report Women, Business and the Law.