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Equal work, equal pay

Finally, women in Chile will be paid the same as men for doing the same work. This week, the government signed a law that will guarantee women the right to receive the same salary as men for performing the same tasks.

Women — who make up 41.6 percent of the work force — are paid an average of 30 percent less than men in the same positions. And as women’s qualifications rise and they enter executive circles, the salary gap with men becomes even larger.

The law will come into effect in six months to give companies time to adjust their payrolls. Hopefully, this will not mean that more women will lose their jobs. Some fear the new law will discourage employers from hiring women — since until now, part of the sexism and discrimination against women in hiring practices was compensated by the “advantage” of being able to pay them less.

The new law establishes special incentives for employers: Companies that don’t apply arbitrary salary differences between their male and female workers will be able to reduce other fines by 10 percent, except those applied to them for anti-union practices or violations of basic labor rights.

President Michelle Bachelet described the law as an "act of justice." “Real progress should start with establishing equality among men and women, and sustainable development cannot permit first and second category workers. We want every woman to know that her work, effort and production have the same value as that of her male co-workers. We want every woman to know that any unjustified salary difference is an abuse that must be repaired,” she said during the signing ceremony.

Sanctions for discriminatory salary differences are mild, however. The maximum fine on companies with less than 50 workers is only $1,300; for companies with 50 to 200 employees, it's up to $2,600; and for companies with over 200 workers, it's up to $3,900.