EU Equal Pay Day: Time to close the gender pay gap

Equal pay for work of equal value continues to elude women in the EU and the gender pay gap of 14.1 percent means that as of November 10, women will work for free until the end of the year.

By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

10 Nov 2020

The current pay gap of 14.1 percent, down from last year’s 16 percent, means that women earn €0.86 for every €1 earned by a man.

European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli said that there is a “moral duty” to close the gender pay gap, adding, “Equal pay for work of equal value is an EU principle. Yet despite the fact that this principle was enshrined in the EU treaties more than 60 years ago, it is still not yet attainable.”

“This is why we need binding pay transparency measures … Let us value women’s work and remunerate them justly.”

Dalli said that with the Gender Equality Strategy, the Commission made a commitment to tackling the gender pay gap, adding, “We will soon be launching legislative and policy measures, including a binding initiative on pay transparency.”

The European Commission says that the gender pay gap is an indicator of gender inequalities in the labour market and in countries where the female employment rate is low, the pay gap tends to be lower than average.

“Equal pay for work of equal value is an EU principle. Yet despite the fact that this principle was enshrined in the EU treaties more than 60 years ago, it is still not yet attainable” Helena Dalli, EU Equality Commissioner

It says that a large pay gap is usually characteristic of a labour market in which women are more concentrated in a restricted number of sectors and/or professions, or in which a significant proportion of women work part-time.

Dubravka Šuica, Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, says that the EU Equal Pay Day, which this year falls on November 10, marks the day when women symbolically stop getting paid until the end of the year to highlight the gap with their male colleagues.

She adds, “The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened structural gender inequalities and increased the risk of poverty. Women are overrepresented in frontline, low-paid and precarious jobs. The right to equal pay is enshrined in the European Treaties. On European #EqualPayDay we say it is time to close the gap!”

Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said that at the current rate, it would take decades, or even centuries, to achieve equality.

“This is not acceptable, we must accelerate and reduce this pay gap to zero.”

“At the current rate, it would take decades, or even centuries, to achieve equality. This is not acceptable, we must accelerate and reduce this pay gap to zero” Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights

Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said, “This gender pay gap is too big: women earn on average 14.1 percent less than their male colleagues - often for the same job. We can only reach gender equality if women are paid equally.”

The Commission’s Justice and Consumers Directorate General pointed out certain misgivings regarding the gender pay gap, highlighting that the idea that women earn less because they choose lower-earning jobs is wrong, adding, “Women tend to earn less per hour than men for the same job whether it is a highly-skilled profession (e.g. doctor) or a lower-skilled job (e.g. salesperson).

The idea that men are better educated, so they should earn more is also wrong, it says, adding, “Today almost 60 percent of graduates in the EU are women.”

Belgian ECR deputy Assita Kanko said that women are often key frontline workers at hospitals, shops, schools and care homes, adding, “the value of their work must be equal and recognised.”

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