French President Emmanuel Macron. Picture: REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN
French President Emmanuel Macron. Picture: REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

Paris — French President Emmanuel Macron marked International Women’s Day on Thursday with a pledge to "name and shame" companies that paid women less than men for the same work.

On a visit to a Paris-based property management firm hailed as a model of gender equality, he announced plans to "drastically" increase inspections of companies to ensure they complied with a law requiring equal pay for equal work.

"We will put in place a ‘name and shame’ system to make public [the names of] companies that least respect the law," said Macron, who has made tackling sexism a key priority.

"No one wants to be bottom of the class on this issue," he said.

In 2017, the World Economic Forum ranked France 11th out of 144 countries for gender equality but a dismal 129th for wage equality for similar work.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced plans to get tough on companies that pay women less.

Under a package of workplace reforms to be finalised in April, wage-screening software will be rolled out in all companies with more than 250 employees from 2019, and in all companies with over 50 employees by 2022, Philippe said.

Companies found to have "unjustified" disparities will have three years to rectify the situation or face fines of up to 1% of their wage bill, Philippe said.

Sexism and violence against women — brought into sharp relief by the #Metoo campaign launched after the Harvey Weinstein scandal — dominated the headlines in France on Thursday.

Male readers of leftwing daily Liberation were asked to pay 25% more for their paper for the day, the proportion by which French women are underpaid compared to men, according to official statistics.

For the same job, women are paid on average 9% less. Liberation published two editions on Thursday with different cover pages, one marked "for women, 2 euros, normal price" with a symbol of a woman, the other marked "for men, 2.50 euros" with a symbol of a man.

The paper said it was inspired by Canadian monthly Maclean’s, which charged men more for its March edition to denounce the gender wage gap.

But not everyone was on board with the operation.

A vendor at a newsstand in central Paris said he had sold only one copy of the paper — a "female" version he sold to a regular male customer who plucked it off the stand and pressed the standard €2 in his hand.