[Brussels, 31 October 2018] The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), marks the ninth European Equal Pay Day by 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. For this reason, more than sixty years later, the European Equal Pay Day was established to illustrate the persistent wage inequality women are confronted with across the EU.
The gender pay gap currently stands at 16,2% in the European Union, exceeding 20% in countries like Estonia and Czech Republic. This means that women from the beginning of November women work for free compared to their male counterparts. 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.
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 labour-market to care for children and other dependent family members, together with women’s overrepresentation 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, the European Women’s Lobby calls 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.
Image - European Commission
The EU has committed to be a frontrunner in implementing the UN’s 2030 Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 5 to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls" by 2030. Concretely, by addressing the root causes of gender pay gap and its consequences , the EU will be moving towards the following SDG 5 targets:
Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.
Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.
Increased efforts to end the gender pay gap are fundamental to address the strategic objectives for women’s economic independence as per the Beijing Platform for Action, a fundamental human rights instrument for women and girls adopted in 1995.