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'We Can't Wait Until 2186': French Women Strike Against Pay Gap

The movement, organized by several feminist groups, encouraged women to leave work at 4:24—for the rest of the year

French women gather to protest the pay gap on November 7, 2016. (Photo: Elide Elide/flickr/cc)

French women walked off their jobs en masse Monday afternoon, as part of a protest against the pay gap that encouraged them not only to leave early—but to take the rest of the year off.

The strike, organized in part by the feminist publication Les Glorieuses, is calling attention to the fact that France's gender wage gap means women are effectively working for free starting at 4:34pm local time until the end of the year.

"As of 4:34pm [and 7 seconds] on November 7, women will be working 'voluntarily,'" the group stated on its website Monday, also noting that women are expected to do additional unpaid work like household chores. "We call on women, men, unions, and feminist organizations to join the movement… and to hold events and protests in order to make income inequality a central political problem. By tackling this subject, we're showing that the gender pay gap is not just a 'woman’s issue'."

According to various analyses by the European Union's statistics agency Eurostat, women are paid 15 to 20 percent less than men, and about 9 percent less when in the same job. Roughly 48 percent of the workforce—just under 13 million people—are women. People shared images from the day of action under the hashtag #7novembre16h34.

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Other groups behind the strike included Les Effrontées and Osez le Féminisme. The organizers said they were following the lead of Icelandic women who staged a similar walkout last month, although that demonstration ended the same day.

Two days after the Icelandic protest, the World Economic Forum released a report which found that at the rate most countries are taking to close their wage gaps, the global disparity won't disappear for another 170 years. Other recent reports have made similar conclusions. And the disparity is only "the tip of the iceberg," Osez le Féminisme said, noting that eight in 10 temporary workers in France were also women.

"We make up around 52 percent of the overall population," Les Glorieuses said on its website. "We don't want to wait until 2186 for equal salaries. We don't want to wait 170 years for this parity."

French women's rights minister Laurence Rossignol said she supported Monday's action, telling Le Parisien, "When women protest, they make visible what is invisible."

French education minister Najat Belkacem, who previously served in Rossignol's position, also publicly supported the action tweeting, "The fight for pay equality involves the whole of society. We cannot wait until 2186!"

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