Today is the International Day for the Rights of Women, and in Belgium the day will be marked by demonstrations in many cities including Brussels.
Nationwide, the trade union FGTB/ABVV has called on women to go on strike for two days, Sunday and Monday. The campaign marches under the slogan “We all stop, we stop everything, we stop everywhere”.
In Brussels, the demonstration held last year attracted tens of thousands. This year, the march begins in front of the Central station at 14.00, following a demonstration on the Place de l’Albertine at the foot of the Mont des Arts, which goes on from 10.00 to 14.00.
Also on Sunday, there will be guided tours of the Fin-de-Siècle museum in Brussels on the representation of female artists in the major art collections. The various royal museums in Belgium at present have only three women artists in their permanent exhibits, although the collections themselves have many more works in storage.
On a similar theme, there will be a demonstration at the Atomium today on the theme of the Smurf Principal – the name given to the fact that women are under-represented in films and on TV, in much the same way that the village of the Smurfs for some reason has a female population of just one.
Meanwhile, the latest statistics from the statistical office of the federal government show that women are still earning on average 6% less than men for the same or similar work.
But the 6% average figure disguises some wide variations, including a negative difference of 20% in financial jobs, but only 3.3% in property and 0.7% in the arts. Women are under-represented in industrial, agricultural and military jobs, but more than hold their own in science, the arts and other intellectual professions.
And as far as the wage gap is concerned, while gender is one handicap, age is another. For the age group 25-34 years, the difference between men and women is only 0.5% on average. By the time we reach the age group 55-64, the gap has widened to 15.3%.