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The EU’s fight against the gender pay gap continues

Earlier in 2021, the European Commission had proposed a directive on pay transparency to give workers concrete tools to assert their rights and encourage companies to review their pay structures. At the beginning of November 2021, the official factsheets containing exact measurement data were released.

The gender pay gap is not a novelty in the EU, the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value has been enshrined in the European treaties since 1957 and was translated into EU law. Even though the situation is improving, progress is very slow in the EU with the gap only decreasing by just under 2 percentage points over the last 9 years.

According to the latest factsheet and the statistical analysis concluded, the gender pay gap in the EU is currently 14.1%. This means, that for every 1 euro men earn, women earn only 86 eurocents, or even more drastically put, women would need to work 2 extra month to make up the difference aggregated over the course of a year. Additionally, only 67% of women in the EU are employed, compared to 78% of men. On average, women’s pensions are 30.1% lower than men’s pensions. Finally, 75% of unpaid care and domestic work is done by women. In the case of Hungary, the gender pay gap is even higher at 18.2 %.

The main reasons behind the gender pay gap are widely researched. The European Commission highlights multiple key factors which include the lack of women in leadership positions, unequal sharing of care and unpaid work and the segregation in education and in the labour market.

The Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 sets out a vision, policy objectives and actions to make concrete progress on gender equality in Europe. With its implementation, seeking compensation for pay discrepancies will become easier. Moreover, employees will be able to see if they are being paid fairly among all other employees. They will also be able to negotiate a higher wage if they feel like they are paid an unjust amount.

It is also important to note that many Member States already have similar laws in place. Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Finland already demand that companies report any gender pay differences. Others, like Italy and Germany, have also introduced laws that promote pay transparency.

According to EU surveys, nine out of ten European women and men think that the gender pay gap is unacceptable. European workers agree on the importance of pay transparency, with 64% in favour of companies publishing average pay by job and gender.