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Equal Pay Day 2015: This Isn't Merely a Product of Economics - It's About Power

09/11/2015 16:35 GMT | Updated 09/11/2016 10:12 GMT

Today may seem like any other day - nothing significant to report on the surface. However, in actual fact 9 November 2015 marks Equal Pay Day and signals the day when women effectively stop being paid as a result of the gender pay gap.

Yes, you read that correctly. This means that women essentially work for free for 57 days a year.

Rewind 40 years to the efforts of the Dagenham women, whose campaign and determination led to the implementation of the Equal Pay Act. Who would have thought that four decades on from their fight - and in the face of what would then have been such unthinkable breakthroughs in technology, science and countless other fields - that in 2015 women would still be at such an economic disadvantage?

This is a problem affecting half the population as women fall victim to the gender pay gap throughout the country - in fact throughout the world. Even in Scandinavia - a country cited for its high levels of equality and strong social conscience - women are paid less than men.

In the UK, women in full-time work are paid on average 14% less than men - a cross-sector problem as new research, published today, shows that female scientists are paid on average £5,000 less per year than their male colleagues. And the problem is even worse for women who work part-time.

It's also clear that age is no barrier as young female apprentices are paid on average 21% less than males on the same apprenticeships, meaning that the gender pay gap is engrained from the minute men and women take their first steps in the world of work. This sends a damaging message to young women that it is the norm for them to receive a lower salary - something which is clearly unacceptable.

Of course, this isn't merely a product of economics - it's about power. Centuries of oppression have created societal conditions which favour the patriarchy. This is reflected in the workplace where women do not have the same access to top jobs and are much more likely to fall into the lowest paid bracket of earners.

Over 60% of those whose wages are lower than the Living Wage are women and it has been estimated that it would take 54 years for women to achieve equal pay if trends continue at the current rate. This is quite frankly an outrage.

But all is not lost. As a trade unionist, Labour MP and a women, I will never stop campaigning for equality for women across the board and equal pay is a major part of that. The trade union - and wider labour - movement has a strong tradition of standing up for women's rights, fighting for equality and delivering change. We must stand together and continue the fight to secure equal pay - and equal access for women to jobs in all sectors and at all levels.

Women work as hard as men in the workplace and deserve the same recognition for it. They should not be sent a message that their labour is undervalued or worth less than their male counterparts - because it is not - and our pay gap pledge is that we will not give up the fight until this is reflected in pay packets across the country.

Rachael Maskell is the Labour MP for York Central and vice chair of the Trade Union Group of MPs

This blog was first published on the Trade Union Group of MPs blog, and can be read here

The Trade Union Group of MPs is a vehicle for promoting the voices of working people in Parliament, working with a wide range of MPs and trade unionists to push the political agenda on to the side of working people