gender pay gap

Unequal Pay Day – call for improved gender equality in the workplace

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31 October marks the Equal Pay Day, the day from which women effectively work for free until the end of the year compared to their male counterparts. The gender pay gap currently stands at 16,2% in the European Union, exceeding 20% in countries like Estonia and Czech Republic. This adds to the gender inequalities women face across their life-cycle and affects each one of them differently, depending on their race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, level of education, location and other social or personal circumstances. 

European Women’s Lobby and University Women of Europe are calling for increased efforts to end the gender pay gap. Even though the principle of equal pay for equal work was enshrined in the 1957 founding Treaty of the EU, European women continue to face discrimination in the job market and to earn less than men.

In addition, because women are paid less, they contribute less to their pensions and this translates into a wide pension gap and higher risk of poverty for older women. Their pension income is negatively influenced both by the gender pay gap and by the time spent out of the labor-market to care for children and other dependent family members, together with women’s over representation in part-time work and in low paid sectors of the economy.

To effectively tackle the gender pay gap, it is necessary to address its multiple and complex root causes, starting from the lack of high quality, accessible and affordable care services. As we have seen, women are penalized throughout their lives for the things they do to keep society functioning, that is care responsibilities. There are a number of important mechanisms already in place or in the pipe-line at the EU-level to lift this weight from women’s shoulders, and the EU Institutions need to demonstrate political will in putting them to use without delay.

One such measure is the so-called “Work-life Balance Directive”, for which the Council agreed its negotiating position (general approach) in June. The Proposal entails the strengthening of parental leave by making the 2 months period non-transferable, the introduction of a carers’ leave and the extension of flexible working arrangement for carers. While the scope of these measures has been sensibly reduced in comparison with the original Commission’s proposal, their adoption would enable women to retain their economic independence while having children and to return swiftly to payed work.

Therefore, we call for a swift adoption of the Proposal for a Directive on Work-Life Balance, followed by enforcement and monitoring. While it is not a magic wand, we believe that this would be a first step towards closing the gender pay gap and ensuring a more equal society for everybody.

Read the statement by the European Commission
Find here the action by PES Women for Unequal Pay Day

For More Information

The gender pay gap in the EU

Work Life Balance Eurobarometer

Work Life Balance proposal

EIGE’s gender equality factsheets based on the results of EIGE’s Gender Equality Index 2017.

Report on pay openness in Finland

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Thanks to our members in Finland, we share with all of you the news that a report on pay openness, compiled by Ombudsman for Equality Jukka Maarianvaara, was submitted to Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services from Finland on 16 October. It should be an inspiring tool for other countries fighting with the same issue: the gender pay gap. 

According to the Press Release published by Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the main conclusion of the report  was that the individual employee’s right of access to pay data should be improved. 

Report on pay openness (Reports and Memorandums of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 41/2018) (in Finnish)

According to Maarianvaara, the Act on Equality between Women and Men should be amended by including more detailed provisions on pay surveys to reveal unfounded differences in employees’ pay. The purpose of pay surveys is to find out whether women and men are treated equally in terms of the pay.

Maarianvaara stresses that the key means to promote pay openness is legislation. Appropriate legislation enables to take account of the rights of employers and all employees in an equitable manner, also including matters such as personal data protection. The legislation is supplemented by measures by labor market organisations and at workplaces.

“The right to equal pay for equal work or work of equal value and to non-discrimination are fundamental rights. Increased openness of data on what people are paid for their work is a necessity in order that this fundamental right is a reality. It is also important to keep in mind that other fundamental and human rights are not an obstacle to wider pay openness”, says Professor Kevät Nousiainen.

How to proceed?

The thorough work by Maarianvaara brings forth problems relating to pay openness and means to solve these. Pay discrimination is difficult to verify if sufficient pay data is not available says Minister Annika Saarikko. Often the pay surveys at workplaces are not detailed enough and the staff representatives do not have sufficient access to pay data to make comparisons.

More efficient means are needed to bridge the pay differences between women and men, and pay openness is one of these. Maarianvaara’s excellent work deserves concrete action as a follow-up.

”What I will do is invite a tripartite working group to draft a proposal on legislative amendments required to strengthen pay openness. The term of the working group must be such that the proposals are available to be used at the government formation talks next year. The working group can base its work on Jukka Maarianvaara’s report, but other means may also be considered”, says Minister Saarikko.

Minister Saarikko appointed Maarianvaara to compile the report in April 2018.


The University Women of Europe has filed collective complaints for application of the Social Charter in the 47 countries members of the Council of Europe stating women are not treated equal as they earn structurally less than men for equal work. As an international INGO, UWE is allowed to submit a collective complaint of violation of the European Social Charter. 

More information about this and other useful links here at our page:


Gender pay gap must be declared by UK companies

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According to BBC News, companies with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gaps within the next year under a new legal requirement.

The UK gender pay gap is 18.1% for all workers, or 9.4% for full-time staff.


Women and Equalities minister Justine Greening said “helping women to reach their full potential isn’t only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense…today we have made gender pay gap mandatory – a key step to closing the gender pay gap“.

About half of the UK workforce will be affected by the new reporting rules, which encompass 9,000 employers and more than 15 million employees.

Public, private and voluntary sector firms are now all required to disclose average pay for men and women, including any bonuses. Firms must publish a snapshot of their employee pay as at 5 April 2017 if they are a private business or charity, or 31 March 2017 for those in the public sector. All the data will eventually be available on a government database.

A few firms had already published their figures prior to the government’s campaign launch.

The gender pay gap refers to the difference in average pay between men and woman, which the Office for National Statistics works out using median hourly earnings figures for UK employees.

Other countries are also working to eradicate the gender pay gap. Iceland is debating a bill that would require companies with more than 25 employees to prove they do not discriminate between male and female workers.

The country has the smallest gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Pay Gap Index, while the UK is in 20th place.



New pay transparency law in Germany aims to close gender pay gap

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Under the new regulations recently approved by the German government,  workers in companies with more than 200 employees will have the right to know what men and women in equal positions are earning. Businesses with more than 500 staff members will also have to publish regular updates on salary structures to show they are complying with equal pay rules.


According to the Rheinische Post newspaper,  the Women’s Affairs Minister Manuela Schwesig “hailed the law on salary transparency as a real breakthrough that would help millions of women narrow the pay gap. We have to break the taboo that you don’t talk about money, because we want to make sure that men and women aren’t played off against each other when it comes to wages.


Among european countries Germany has one of the widest pay gaps in Europe, ranking only above seven other countries in an Expert Market’s suevey  released in October. Women earn 21.6 percent less than men in Germany – which is a wider margin  than the European average of 16.5 percent, according to 2015 government data. The discrepancy is in part down to the fact that women in Germany tend more often to work in low-paid jobs or sectors, or only part time. For women with the same qualifications doing the same work as a male colleague, the pay gap stands at 7%, according to the women’s affairs ministry. Slovenia, meanwhile, had the smallest gap with women there making on average 96.8 percent of what men earn. This was followed by Malta, Poland, Norway and Italy.


Critics are afraid the new regulations will foster workplace animosity and create additional bureaucracy because of the law.  “Although it is troubling to see the gender pay gap persisting in the EU, it is encouraging to see several potential closure dates in the near futureMichael Horrocks, Expert market. This research indicates that the traditional European powers – UK, France and Germany – could be doing more to help close the gender pay gap.

Last year Germany also implemented for larger business a quota system calling for supervisory boards to have 30 percent women – “women’s quota”  but the country’s boardrooms are still largely male-dominated, according to a recent report.

For more information about gender pay gap in Europe and UWE activities related to this subject please go to our page:




European Equal Pay Day 2015

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EPD_LogoOn 2 November, the European Commission marks European Equal Pay Day 2015. As there is a gender pay gap of 16.3% in the EU, from now on women symbolically stop earning for the rest of the year, while men will continue to earn money until 31 December.

Ahead of this occasion, First Vice-President Timmermans, Commissioner Thyssen and Commissioner Jourová made a statement:

Equality between men and women is one of the fundamental values of the European Union, but this day reminds us that it is not one of its fundamental realities.

The pay gap between women and men is already unfair, unjustified and unacceptable in the short term. But in the long term, it accumulates throughout a woman’s career and results in an even more significant pension gap, with women’s pensions 39% lower than men’s.

The results of a Commission consultation published today on equality between women and men confirm that Europeans see the gender pay gap as the most urgent inequality to deal with.

Europe has laws in place on equal pay. But they are not sufficiently enforced on the ground by Member States. Last year we made a Recommendation to Member States to tackle the pay gap. We are supporting the Member States, local authorities and other stakeholders to help them make a difference on the ground.

But there has been little or no progress in recent years.

As well as guaranteeing equal pay for women on the labour market, we must give them the means to access the labour market for as long as men. Spending less time on the labour market exacerbates the pension pay gap. This is a question of both mind-sets and opportunities.

In our 2016 Work Programme we will take measures to address this challenge by helping working parents with children and those caring for dependent relatives to balance care and career. The new start for working parents and care givers will tackle the lack of affordable childcare, rigid working arrangements or absence of incentives for men to take more care responsibilities in their families.

At the current pace, the gender pay gap is declining so slowly that we will need to wait another 70 years to achieve equal pay – that’s not one generation, but two.

The pay gap is everyone’s business and everyone stands to gain from its elimination. It’s time to close the gap.”

28 country factsheets were released by European Comission  for all EU Member States with figures on the gender pay gap and the overall gender earnings gap and an EU factsheet with the same information for the European Union:;

An animated infographic explaining some of the reasons behind the gender pay gap can be found here: