The new wage register, a rather unambitious tool

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On Wednesday the mandatory wage record for all companies in the state comes into force, aiming to reveal differences in wages paid to men and women for the same job. It is one more tool to fight against the gender pay gap, a pay discrimination that is unacceptable, and unsustainable with a 21st century outlook. Because not only does it continue, but the very existence of this wage register shows how difficult it is to eradicate. The Spanish Constitution (article 35), the Workers' Statute (article 28), two laws on equality, the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, a European directive, a recommendation of the European Commission... The legal corpus that protects the equality of men and women in labour rights is sufficient. But we still have a long way to go.

Four facts. The current rate of wage equalisation puts the time it would take to achieve equality in Spain at 30 years. On average, each woman worker in the European Union earns 14.8% less per hour than a man doing the same job. When they have a child, men's wages stay the same, but women's salaries drop by 11% in the first year and up to 28% over the following decade. And, finally, in Catalonia women earn on average 22.2% less than men, compared to 16% in the European Union as a whole.

Therefore, any tool that comes along is to be welcomed. The new register, which includes sanctions, must include the salaries of all workers, including managers, specifying gender and job categories. All companies are obliged to do so, but especially those with over 50 workers, which will have to provide more details (complexity of the job or training required, for example). Likewise, if a company with more than 50 workers admits a gender pay gap of over 25%, it will have to justify it in a reasonable manner.

This higher requirement on companies with more than 50 workers makes sense as they are the ones obliged by law to have equality plans and, therefore, the ones that should have already started correcting any unbalance. But the fact is that approximately 90% of Spanish companies have under 50 workers. And it is not in large companies where the gap is most detected, due to the weight of trade unions and very detailed and careful agreements in this regard.

With fewer documentary obligations for small companies, then, the Labour Inspectorate (the one in charge of controlling compliance) will have a lot of work to do to determine the gender pay gap exactly.

In principle, the aim of the register is to give a more detailed overview of the situation, to zoom in on the actual pay gap situation - that is exactly the virtue that industry experts believe it has - and it is true that every step helps. But then we will have to wait for the results to be carefully analysed and used to take further action.