Equal Pay Day: Statement by Vice-President Jourová and Commissioners Schmit and Dalli

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Women in the European Union still earn less than men. The gender pay gap in the EU-27 has slightly improved since last year: from 14.5% to 14.1% according to the latest Eurostat findings. The European Equal Pay Day marks the day when women symbolically stop getting paid compared to their male colleagues for the same job. This year, the European Equal Pay Day falls on 10 November.

Ahead of this symbolic day, Věra Jourová Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Nicolas Schmit Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights and Helena Dalli Commissioner for Equality made the following joint statement:

“Women and men are equal.

As Europe is trying to bounce back economically from the pandemic, we need all talent and skills to do so.

Yet women are not equally valued for their work. They still earn on average 86 cents for every euro a man earns across Europe.  Women thus work 51 days more to earn the same as their male colleagues.

This is the result of socio-economic inequalities throughout life, when women enter the labour market, progress in their careers, while striking the right balance between work and family responsibilities. All this when, for too many, living lives free from violence remains a struggle.

The pandemic has exacerbated these structural gender inequalities and the risk of poverty. Women are over-represented in frontline low-paid jobs providing the most basic and essential community services. They are also disproportionately present in informal jobs that are not covered by social protection systems.

This is not only unfair. It is against what this Union stands for. It has been more than 60 years since the right to equal pay was enshrined in the EU Treaties. 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.

Earlier this year, we have presented our strategy for equality between women and men in Europe with measures to close the pay gap. And we will not stop there. Any remaining pay discrimination and gender bias in pay structures needs to end. In the coming weeks, we will propose to introduce binding measures on pay transparency. Adequate minimum wages can play their part in helping to reduce the gender pay gap, since more women than men earn a minimum wage.

The value of work is the same whether done by a woman or a man.

This is what this Union stands for. This is the Union of Equality.”

Background

The factors behind the pay gap are manifold: women more often work part-time, they face the problem of the corporate glass ceiling, they work in lower paid sectors and lower paid jobs within sectors and often have to take primary responsibility for caring for their families or are paid less for the same work or work of equal value.

Nine out of ten Europeans – women and men – think that it is unacceptable that women are paid less than men for the same work or work of equal value. European workers agree with pay transparency: 64% of them have said they are in favour of the publication of average wages by job type and gender at their company.

In March 2020, as announced by President von der Leyen, the Commission published the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 that sets out actions to close the gender pay gap. These include an initiative to introduce binding pay transparency measure. The Commission will also launch a campaign to challenge persisting stereotypes about women, their role in society, and the value of their work. From January to April 2019, the Commission conducted a public consultation on the functioning and implementation of the EU’s legal framework on equal pay. A summary of the results is available online.

The Commission’s proposal on adequate minimum wages for workers, adopted on 28 October 2020, supports gender equality, helps closing the gender pay gap and lifting women out of poverty, as more women earn minimum wages in Europe than men.

Another way the Commission addresses women’s underrepresentation in the labour market is by improving the work-life balance of working parents and carers. In June 2019, the EU adopted the Directive on work-life balance, which introduces minimum standards for rights to paternity and parental leave as well as the rights to carer’s leave and flexible working arrangements for workers. Member States have time until 2 August 2022 to transpose the directive into national legislation.

The Commission Recommendation on standards for equality bodies, adopted in June 2018, paved the way for better support for victims of discrimination, including pay discrimination.

Today, the EU agency “European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions” (Eurofound), has published a study on costs and benefits of pay transparency for companies.

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