LONDON – Efforts to close the gender pay gap risk stalling as countries recover from COVID-19, researchers said on Monday as a global poll showed almost a quarter of men thought the issue was “political correctness gone too far.”
Although the survey spanning 28 countries revealed nearly 8 in 10 people considered it important to tackle wage differences between men and women, almost half of them did not think it should be a top priority during the health crisis.
More than 1 in 10 men said tackling the pay gap was not important, according to the poll published on International Women’s Day by Ipsos MORI and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership (GIWL) at King’s College London.
The poll found that 1 in 5 men believed media reports about the issue were “fake news.”
The findings come amid growing evidence that women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
“If we’re to have any chance of ensuring women don’t lose out further because of the crisis, we need to keep this (pay gap) issue high on the agenda,” said Julia Gillard, former Australian prime minister and GIWL chairwoman.
Women are more likely than men to work in health and care jobs on the front lines of the pandemic, as well as in badly hit sectors such as hospitality and retail, and have shouldered the burden of childcare during school closures.
Lockdowns have also brought a rise in domestic violence.
Poll respondents said more flexible working practices and greater support for domestic abuse victims should be top priorities for ensuring that COVID-19 recovery efforts address issues facing women.
Globally, women are paid about 16% less than men, according to U.N. Women.
The poll of 20,520 people across Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East showed 42% thought closing the gap was important, but should not be prioritized right now, compared with 36% who thought it should be.
Support was highest in Chile, South Africa and France, and lowest in Russia, the Netherlands and the United States.
On pay transparency, more than half of respondents thought workers had the right to know what colleagues doing similar jobs were paid, with support slightly higher among women than men.
The European Union said on Friday there was “ample evidence” that hard-won gender equality gains had been rolled back.
Half of people polled in the GIWL survey thought things would return to how they were pre-pandemic as countries recover.
But 19% in Germany, Spain and Turkey thought the crisis would set things back for women, while 38% in Saudi Arabia thought women’s position would improve.
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