US & Canada

Obama signs executive orders targeting gender wage gap

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Media captionObama said the gender pay gap across the US economy was "not right"

US President Barack Obama has issued two executive orders aimed at erasing gender disparities in pay among the government workforce.

One directive signed on Tuesday bars federal contactors from retaliating against employees for discussing pay.

The other requires such contractors to provide compensation data by race and gender to the Department of Labor.

The Democrat also rebuked Republicans for blocking equal pay legislation, as both sides vie for female voters.

Even playing field

"Pay secrecy fosters discrimination, and we should not tolerate it, not in federal contracting or anywhere else," Mr Obama, citing Census Bureau data indicating that on average, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn.

The executive actions covering federal contractors will reportedly affect nearly one-quarter of the US workforce.

A similar bill forbidding companies from punishing employees who share salary information has been introduced in the US Senate, but Republicans are expected the block it.

Conservatives have rejected similar legislation in the upper chamber of Congress in 2010 and 2012.

"This is about Republicans seemingly opposing any efforts to even the playing field for working families," Mr Obama said as he signed the executive orders on Tuesday.

Republicans however have argued that such moves would hurt women by restricting merit pay and job flexibility.

"We all know workplace discrimination still exists, [but] we need real solutions that focus on job creation and opportunity for women. Not more regulations that cut flexibility and cut bonuses," the Republican National Committee wrote in a statement.

Both political parties have fought to attract women voters as they approach the mid-term elections in November.

Those elections will determine which party controls the US Senate and House of Representatives for the final two years of Mr Obama's presidential term.

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