Women in Europe still work 59 days ‘for free’

28 Feb 2014

Today (28 February) marks European Equal Pay Day, the date in the calendar year from which women really begin to be paid for their work as compared to men. This year women in Europe effectively work 59 days ‘for free’. The day brings attention to the injustice behind the gender pay gap between men and women.

Women in Europe still work 59 days ‘for free’

Equal Pay Day was launched on 5 March 2011. In 2014, European Equal Pay Day is on February 28, the same day as in 2013. Whilst improvements have been made, there is still a long way to go. The gender pay gap, the difference between women and men’s hourly earnings across the economy, is at 16%. In effect it means that today women work 59 days “for free” until they match the amount earned by men.

The gender pay gap trend varies across Europe, with countries such as Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Cyprus have continued to close the gap. However in Hungary, Portugal, Estonia, Bulgaria, Ireland and Spain have increased the gap.

A report from the European Commission late last year shows that equal pay has many obstacles in its way: insufficient transparency in pay systems, a lack of legal clarity in the definition of work of equal value, and administrative hurdles. Transparency in this area is one of the Commission’s key goals.

In recent years there have been some countries from which countries lagging behind in gender equality could learn from. Belgium saw legislation passed in 2012 which obliges companies to carry out analysis of wage structures every other year. Austria has a similar system. France has enhanced sanctions against companies of 50 or more employees who fail to comply with gender equality regulation. Finally, in Portugal last year a resolution was passed which promotes equality of opportunity in the labour market, with industry producing reports on gender pay gaps.

No progress has been made since 2013 to address the gender pay in Europe. CESI would like to see more efforts at European level, and in particular at national level, to eradicate the inequalities in pay for women.

The gender pay gap will be discussed within CESI’s upcoming Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Commission.

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