November 7th, 4:34 PM Or The Moment From When French Female Employees Are Working For Free

From Monday, November 7th at precisely 4:34 PM, French female employees will be working for free… at least technically. Since their wages are lower than their male counterparts’, it will equate to French women being voluntarily in office for the 38 remaining working days of 2016, out of 253 annual working days. Feminist collective Les Glorieuses encourages French employees to be on strike from that moment on, in order to protest against this persistent inequality.

  • What is the Gender Pay Gap like in France and Europe?

According to the European Commission, in 2013, French women were earning 15.5% less than their male colleagues, all else being equal – diplomas, competences, responsibilities in the job, and without any adjustments made – that is to say without taking into account variables such as education, experience, age, location, job title, industry or company, and by focusing on a national level. In the case of adjusted variables, figures are less impressive – in 2013, Gender Pay Gap for French employees drops to a difference of 6.4% between on average salaries – but remain in favor of male employees.
The French national statistic bureau, INSEE, is even more alarming in its conclusions; in 2013, French women earned 19% less than their male counterparts: without any adjustment, men earned 2389 euros in average, net salary, whereas women earned 1934 euros in average, net salary – a difference of 455 euros per month.

Another significative information is the number of hours paid on average: in 2010, French male employees were paid 152 hours per month, against 138 for their female colleagues.

This Gender Pay Gap is visible in many other European countries, at very different scales:


Source: Eurostat, 2014

  • Where does this strike initiative come from?

The idea comes straight from Iceland, where female employees were on strike on October 24th, 2016 from 2:38 PM for the same reasons. This demonstration isn’t a novelty in the country: it takes place every October 24th since 1975 – a true national tradition. On first edition, 90% of female employees took to the streets; the movement still gathers thousands of protestors every year. This is a surprising fact when knowing that Iceland is one of the most egalitarian countries in the world: it elected female President and Prime Ministers, and is first in the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap ranking according to The Atlantic.

But still. In Iceland, female employees earn 30% less than their male colleagues, without any adjustments; as The Atlantic puts it, when a man earns 1 dollar, a woman earns 72 cents only.

In Iceland, when a man earns 1 dollar, a woman earns 72 cents

Every year, the demonstration’s start is delayed of several minutes, thus showing that Gender Pay Gap filled a bit over the past twelve months: on October 24th, 2010, the strike began at 2:25 PM – in 2016, it started 13 minutes later, at 2:38 PM. Even though this is an encouraging sign, Iceland Review journalist Vala Hafstad underlines that if the Icelandic Gender Pay Gap keeps on being dealt with so slowly, women and men won’t be equally paid until 2068… in over 50 years from now.

  • Will the movement be followed by French employees on November 7th?

In France, women are much more reticent to effectively taking part to the movement: indeed, this call for strike action comes from an independent organism, Les Glorieuses, and not from official trade-unions as Libération explains. Therefore, companies weren’t officially informed of an upcoming social movement: leaving office on November 7th to be on strike will be perceived as an unexcused absence and even a desertion from employees – a ground for dismissal.

Since companies weren’t officially informed of an upcoming strike, leaving office on November 7th could be a ground for dismissal

Another motive that dissuade employees from committing themselves is that no financial support has been organized for potential strikers, who would find themselves in a difficult position since their wages would be cut out. Those two reasons are clearly deterring employees from supporting the movement by leaving office. When facing these legitimate reactions, Les Glorieuses announced that a post on social media platforms with #7Novembre16h34 could also be a significant support, even without leaving office. But does a social media post represent the same level of commitment and impact as a actual demonstration?

Let us know in comments how you feel about this initiative. Do you think this call for strike action may grab people’s attention and trigger some concrete actions?


Featured image: Iconic scene from the movie Made In Dageneham (We Want Sex Equality) recreated in Lego – © Ian Cook via Flickr

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