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8 Mar, 2012

Women in Europe Still Earn 16.4% Less on Average than Men


Brussels, 02 March 2012 (European Commission media release) – Women across the EU continue to earn an average of 16.4% less than men, according to new figures released by the European Commission on European Equal Pay Day.

This is the second Equal Pay Day at European level following its launch by the European Commission on 5 March 2011 (see IP/11/255). The EU-wide event marks the extra number of days that women must work to match the amount of money earned by men. The European Commission wants to raise awareness about this gender pay gap across the EU. This year’s Equal Pay Day focuses in particular on employers and comes ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.

“European Equal Pay Day reminds us of the days and hours that women have been working ‘for free’ since 1 January. The principle of equal pay for equal work is written in the EU Treaties since 1957. It is high time that it is put in practice everywhere,” said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, the Commission’s Vice-President.

The latest figures show an average 16.4% gender pay gap in 2010 across the European Union. They confirm a slight downward trend in recent years, when the figure was around 17% or higher. The rate ranges from around 2% in Poland to more than 27% in Estonia.

The gender pay gap – the average difference in gross hourly earnings between women and men across the economy as a whole – is persistently high, with considerable differences between countries and sectors. It reflects the problem of balancing work and private life: many women take parental leave and have part-time jobs. Despite the generally slightly positive trend, there are Member States where the gender pay gap is widening, such as Bulgaria, France, Latvia, Hungary, Portugal and Romania.

Awareness-raising activities are essential to inform employers, employees and stakeholders why there is still a gender pay gap and how it can be reduced. New tools include:

  • Training for companies and exchanges of good practices on the business case for gender equality, methods and tools to address the gender pay gap in companies;
  • A video clip highlighting existing pay inequalities between women and men;
  • An updated campaign website including a new section on the important role of collective agreements between the social partners in closing the gender pay gap; tools to identify the gender pay gap in the workplace; and a checklist to integrate pay equity into collective agreements;
  • A series of national events in 17 EU Member States to spread information on pay inequalities.

Reducing the gender pay gap requires action on several levels to tackle its multiple causes, which is why the Commission works on this closely with Member States. In December 2011, the Commission organised an exchange of good practices to tackle the gender pay gap. The German government presented a tool they launched in 2009 (the Logib-D software), which allows companies to analyse the gender pay gap within their organisation. Austria presented new legislative measures to improve income transparency in companies which includes annual reporting obligations on the pay gap.

Thanks to EU and national legislation on equal pay, the number of cases of direct discrimination – differences in pay between men and women doing exactly the same job – has fallen. But the pay gap goes far beyond this, reflecting ongoing inequality in the overall job market.