Right to Fair Wages and Equal Pay

These days, there are more instances of discriminatory pay scales for the same type of work, which has raised the issue of ‘pay gaps’ or unequal pay. While there are numerous provisions in our Constitution prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, religion, and place of birth, such as Articles 14 (1), 15 (2), and 16 (3), they do not guarantee Indian citizens equal opportunity in all spheres of life.

The government has implemented several policies to guarantee that men and women have equal opportunities. However, India continues to lack a comprehensive and transparent wage policy that applies to all economic sectors. As a result, the future demand for equal pay has become a source of concern.

Concept of Equal Pay for Equal Work

Equal pay for equal work mainly refers to the idea of providing equal facilities and wages to men and women performing the same jobs with the same number of responsibilities and duties. It means, it is based on the idea that no one should be subjected to discrimination based on their gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or any other characteristic, and that people should receive remuneration that reflects the value of their work.

Although the Indian Constitution does not explicitly recognize this right as fundamental, a number of its provisions do encourage the implementation of equal pay for equal work. Some of them are as follows −

  • Article 14 guarantees equality before the law, which entails equal rights and opportunities for men and women in the political, economic, and social spheres.

  • Article 15(1) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them, and Article 15(3) provides the state with various powers to make positive discrimination in favor of women.

  • Article 16 grants special rights, including the enactment of laws to benefit women and children.

  • Article 39(d) specifically provides for equal pay for men and women.

Legal framework in India for Fair wages and Equal pay

  • The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 − The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 aims to establish a statutory minimum wage because Indian workers are poorly organized with limited bargaining power. Equal pay is given to men and women workers.

  • The Factories Act, 1948 − The Factories Act, of 1948, was introduced to regulate the working conditions of laborers employed in factories.

  • The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act of 1970 establishes separate provisions for utilities and has fixed working hours for women.

  • The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 − The Equal Remuneration Act was passed in 1976 in order to guarantee equal pay for male and female employees and to outlaw discrimination based on gender in all facets of employment. This law gives women the right to demand equal pay, but it also makes it possible to challenge any discrimination in employment practices, job training, promotions, and transfers within the organization.

Code on Wages, 2019

The Indian government recently passed the Code on Wages, 2019 of India. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, the Minimum Wages Act of 1948, the Payment of Wages Act of 1936, and the Payment of Bonus Act of 1965 are the four national-level labor laws on wages that are combined under the Code of Wages.

The Code of Wages contains a first set of anti-discrimination provisions that forbid discrimination against employees based on their gender in situations involving the payment of wages. The Code on Wages prohibits discrimination in employment practices and working conditions unless doing so would be against a law that prohibits or restricts the employment of women in such jobs.

The main differences between the Equal Remuneration Act (ERA) and the Code on Wages are that while the ERA only addressed discrimination against women and between male and female employees, the Code on Wages prohibits it based on gender, which includes the LGBTIQ category as well.

A way Ahead

Pay disparities are one of the key indicators of a social injustice problem that requires immediate attention. India has also taken measures to reduce the rate of pay disparities. India had previously ratified the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951, which was adopted by the ILO. Even though India has achieved significant progress in addressing the issue of pay equity, much more needs to be done.

The government needs to strongly support and promote the equal pay for equal work principle, starting with itself. Strong wage policies and strict enforcement of the current anti-disparity laws should be used to further support this.

It is essential to regularly run programs educating workers about their rights because pay inequality also exists in India's considerable unorganized sector. The government must create and put into place effective wage policies that apply to the unorganized/informal sector in order to work towards formalizing it.


In India, the protection of the right to fair wages and equal pay has generally increased, but much more has to be done to ensure that all workers including women and those in the unorganized sector receive fair wages and equal pay, regardless of their gender, caste, or other characteristics.

There are already laws in place, as evidenced by the sheer number of articles in our Constitution that guarantee equality of opportunity for men and women. The issue is how broadly the law is applicable and to what extent states have been successful in implementing the constitutional guarantee of gender equality in employment opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are fair wages?

Ans. Fair wages are those that are sufficient to allow workers to maintain a decent standard of living, including having access to necessities like housing, food, healthcare, and education.

Q2. What is equal pay?

Ans. Equal pay refers to the idea that people should be paid equally for equal work, regardless of their gender or any other characteristic.

Q3. Does India have a law that provides for equal pay for equal work?

Ans. The Equal Remuneration Act, of 1976 was enacted in order to guarantee equal pay for male and female employees and to outlaw discrimination based on gender in all facets of employment.

Q4. Is equal pay for equal work a fundamental right?

Ans. Recently, the Supreme Court stated that equal pay for equal work is not a fundamental right that is granted to any employee but rather a constitutional goal that has to be achieved by the government.

Updated on: 11-May-2023


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