The mutual learning seminar, held in Brussels on 20-21 October 2016, examined the Belgian good practices on how to tackle the gender pay gap. The meeting was highly relevant given the entrenched nature of the gender pay gap despite progress in some EU countries. The 2012 Belgian Gender Pay Gap Law measures and their practical implementation formed the main focus of the seminar.
In Belgium, the Gender Pay Gap Law was implemented on 22 April 2012. The law established a set of far-ranging new measures designed to increase transparency in wage setting, as well as awareness and practical actions to address the gender wage gap at the different levels of wage negotiations that take place at national, sectoral and company level. In keeping with Belgium’s tradition of social dialogue, a particular feature of the law is the important role given to the social partners. At sectoral level, the measures include a requirement for a new monitoring system to review and update job classification systems. At the company level, there is a requirement to provide gender-disaggregated data in the annual social balance sheets submitted to the National Bank, a biannual company report on the pay structure, and the possibility to appoint a company gender mediator.
In the discussions, participants focussed on the transferability of the Belgian good practice and discussed the tools used in their countries to tackle the gender pay gap. There was an agreement on the importance of measures to strengthen pay transparency at company level and to encourage gender-neutral job classification systems. The Belgian legislation provided a useful example for other countries to develop or strengthen tools and actions in these areas, on the grounds that what can be measured can be monitored. However, in countries with weaker social dialogue mechanisms, or with a higher proportion of small or family enterprises, other approaches might be necessary. It was recognised that the gender pay gap was part of a much larger issue than equal pay for work of equal value, and that a holistic approach is required. There is a strong need to address a wide range of issues, including gender-stereotypical choices of education and training, employment segregation, the under-valuing of work predominantly performed by women, low pay, working time regulations, and care provisions.