Women in the European Union still earn on average 16% less than men, a slight improvement from last year's 16.2%. This year the European Equal Pay Day falls on 4 November. It marks the day when women symbolically stop getting paid compared to their male colleagues for the same job.
Ahead of this symbolic day, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen and Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová stated:
“It is 60 years since the equal pay principle was written into the European Treaties, and yet women across Europe still don't see the laws matching the reality of their daily lives. European women still work for two months for free compared to their male colleagues and the progress is too slow.
While we have made some steps in the right direction in the past five years, more needs to be done and faster. Our citizens expect us to do better. Nine out of ten Europeans – women and men - think that it is unacceptable that women are paid less than men for the same job.
Knowledge is power, and therefore, the more we can improve transparency around the underlying causes of the pay gap, the better we will be able to tackle it. The pay transparency is important, so we can detect cases of pay discrimination and the employees and customers can draw their own conclusions and take action. In fact, 64% of Europeans have stated that they are in favour of the publication of average wages by job type and gender at their company.
Pay transparency, combined with other solutions such as an equal distribution of caring responsibilities between women and men – enabled by new EU Directive on parental and carers' leave – would help us tackle the root causes of the gender pay gap.
We therefore welcome the announcement of President-elect von der Leyen to table measures introducing binding pay transparency in the first 100 days of the new mandate. We must continue to fight the gender pay gap, for a more effective workforce and for a more just society."
The factors behind the pay gap are multiple: women more often work part-time, they are confronted with the corporate glass-ceiling, they work in lower paid sectors or often have to take the primary responsibility for care of their families. One way to address these factors is to improve the work-life balance of working parents and carers. The Commission made a proposal to that end in April 2017, which was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in January 2019. .
Pay differences also depend on gender stereotypes and discrimination. The relative weights of these causes cannot be known without more pay transparency.
At EU-level, different initiatives have been taken in during the past 5 years of the Juncker Commission. In 2014, the Commission adopted a Recommendation on strengthening the principle of equal pay between men and women through promoting concrete pay transparency measures, including the right to information, pay audit, pay reporting inclusion of equal pay issues in collective bargaining. The 2017 Report on the implementation of the Recommendation found insufficient implementation and effectiveness of the measures.
Until now, €14.2 million of funding has been granted to projects combatting stereotypes, regard to career guidance and career choices, on women in decision-making and work-life balance, on closing gender gaps over the course of one's life and on how to address the gap in employment, pay and pensions.