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