International mechanisms to revalue women's work: research

The report reviews different approaches to redress the undervaluation of women’s work and assesses their applicability to the Scottish employment context. The report finds that undervaluation of women’s work is a driver of the gender pay gap and makes recommendations to alleviate this disparity.


This report is based on research commissioned by the Scottish Government (SG) to improve understanding of international mechanisms that aim to revalue, or result in the revaluation of, women’s work. Its focus is on historically low-paid jobs in social care, early learning and childcare (ELC), retail, catering and cleaning. The research is part of the SG’s work to promote gender equality and reduce the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) through the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan[1]. It aims to identify practical mechanisms and approaches utilised internationally to redress the undervaluation of women’s work, along with evaluation of their effectiveness and applicability in the Scottish context. Two distinct approaches, reflected in international examples, are identified in this report – one gender neutral, enshrined in job evaluation in particular organisations or sectors, and the second addressing gender segregation, and the difficulties of comparing the value of jobs in male- or female-dominated sectors[2].

The different meanings of ‘equal pay’ and ‘pay equity’ should also be acknowledged. Equal Pay refers to equal pay for equal work, addressing circumstances in which men and women do the same kind of work in an organisation, and is enshrined in equal pay legislation. Pay Equity is a wider term that includes equal pay for work of equal value and compares jobs usually done by women with different jobs usually done by men on the basis of levels of skill, effort and responsibility across organisations (often called proxy comparators). While the report generally uses the term ‘equal pay’ (except in the cases of Canada and New Zealand where pay equity is explicit in legislation), the aspiration is for pay equity.

The research aims to:

  • Examine the issues of women’s pay and conditions and mechanisms for how pay is set and changes over time in four sectors/occupations in Scotland:

    1. So-called ‘elementary’ occupations, such as cleaning, kitchen and catering

    2. Adult health and social care

    3. Early learning and childcare

    4. Sales and customer service (retail)

  • Explore and describe international evidence of mechanisms that have sought explicitly or implicitly, to revalue women’s work
  • Evaluate how far they are applicable to the Scottish context and to the four key sectors above, in which women are over-represented in Scotland



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