Reveal salaries to fight pay disparity

Not only should publicly listed companies disclose their directors' and top executives' pay, but private firms should also make information about salaries public to fight against inequalities (SGX firms' disclosure of pay practices weak: Study; Jan 12).

The world only found out that popular female actresses in Hollywood were earning less than their male counterparts when hackers published e-mails from executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014.

The revelation helped women to drive harder bargains to avoid pay discrimination.

A salary is the price paid for an individual worker's labour, and markets work best when prices are disclosed.

Income inequality is still a problem in many places. Hence, salary transparency would improve the odds of equal pay for equal work. If women and minority employees know the salary levels at their organisations, they would be in a better position to negotiate with management.

Sadly, in today's work culture, employees are not allowed to compare pay rates or other compensations with their co-workers, and may get fired if caught. Some companies spell out such policies in non-disclosure agreements.

Layers of hidden company information make income disparity easier to hide.

Transparency, however, increases trust between management and employees, and improves equality and diversity.

By being able to see that their salary is aligned with those of other similar roles, employees are reassured that the management is being fair.

For this to succeed, transparency should be part of the overall company culture and should be embedded into the company's operating style.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2018, with the headline 'Reveal salaries to fight pay disparity'. Print Edition | Subscribe