Obama urges Congress to give women equal pay

US President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass a law guaranteeing equal pay for women, saying it was crucial to helping boost the incomes of struggling families.

“Nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages,” Obama said in his annual State of the Union speech. “That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.

“Really. It’s 2015. It’s time.”

The proposal was part of a list of initiatives Obama called “middle-class economics” aimed at strengthening household incomes and pulling millions of Americans from the edge of poverty.

He told Congress to back plans that would ease cost-of-living pressures on working-class families, including better pay, childcare support and paid sick and maternity leave.

He also urged new laws forcing employers to pay overtime wages to more workers, raise the minimum wage, and provide free community college studies to prepare people for “the new economy.”

“At every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot,” the president said.

“Middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement .”

The call for an equal wage law for women was rooted in a persistent divergence between what men and women receive for the same jobs.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2011, men earned nearly 18 percent more than women, and other data suggests the gap has not closed since then.

Obama also argued that lack of widespread, affordable childcare is a challenge for families with two working parents.

“It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us,” he said.

He added that 43 million Americans have no paid sick leave, making the United States “the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.”

“Things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage — these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families.”

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