Women workers in Salyan get paid less than menAuthorities say those found guilty of gender discrimination at workplace can be penalised but they have received no such complaints so far.
Sunita Roka has been working as a daily wage earner for the last 10 years. The 27-year-old from Simkharka in Sharada Municipality-8 is a skilled mason equally dexterous in building mud/stone walls as well as concrete ones. She is well known in her locality as a proficient mason. But she still doesn’t get wages on par with her male counterpart despite doing the same work.
“The government has fixed equal wages for equal work. But women still get paid less than men,” said Roka.
According to her, she is paid Rs 600 per day for her work while her male co-worker receives Rs 800 for the same work. “We know it’s unfair but we can’t afford to not work. We have to take what we are given or else we will have no means of survival,” she said.
Pramila Nepali of Sharada Municipality-6 has a similar ordeal. Nepali, who has been working as a construction worker for the past seven years, gets Rs550 a day while her male counterparts receive Rs800 for the same work.
Roka and Nepali are just two examples. Wage gaps and discrimination in pay scale between male and female workers have left many women underpaid across all fields but more so in the labour market.
According to the District Coordination Committee (DCC) in Salyan, there are around 2,000 women working as daily wage earners in the district.
The DCC has fixed wages at Rs 950 per day for a mason, Rs 750 for an assistant and Rs 650 for an ordinary worker. The daily wages for porters and supervisors have been fixed at Rs 675 and Rs 750 respectively.
But despite the fixed rates, discrimination continues.
Nirmala Pariyar, a daily wage worker from Sharada Municipality-1, says women put in longer hours than men on job sites but are still underpaid.
“Men work by the clock, from 10 am to 5 pm. But women stay back and work longer hours to prove that we are hardworking and deserving of equal pay,” said Pariyar. “But we get paid less than men for doing the same job. Male workers make Rs 700 a day while I get Rs 600 for the same work.”
Muna Gharti, a daily wage worker, blames contractors and consumer committees for the disparity in wages and the discrimination against women in the labour market.
“We may lose our jobs if we demand wages on par with the men,” said Gharti, a resident of Kupinde Municipality Ward No. 10. “Any kind of job is hard to come by these days so we continue working in silence. We even put in extra effort at work so that we don’t get fired.”
Gharti’s husband works as a daily wage worker in India. She has the responsibility of taking care of her family of five in Nepal but her income falls short of meeting all their needs, she says.
Rights activists say the disparity in pay between men and women is a result of patriarchy and cultural norms.
“People in general think women are weaker. They believe women don’t put as much work and effort into their jobs. This has led to a wide gender pay gap that affects the most vulnerable women in society.”
“Contractors and representatives of the consumer committees fix wages themselves. Contractors in Salyan bring workers from other districts to raise competition among workers so that they can hire a labourer at the minimum possible wage,” said Sarita Hamal, chairperson of the Women Labour Association in Salyan.
Local authorities in Salyan say contractors and consumer committees can be penalised if found guilty of paying low wages to women labourers and of gender discrimination at the workplace.
“It is punishable by law to pay below the fixed wage limit. The local administration takes action against contractors or representatives of consumer committees if found providing low wages to women labourers. But we haven’t received any complaints yet,” said Laxmi Devi Humagain, chief district officer in Salyan.