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MEPs call on Commission to introduce more effective sanctions to reduce gender pay gap

[Brussels, 24 April 2012] A Europe-wide strategy is still necessary to tackle gender pay gap, says a resolution adopted unanimously by the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights on Tuesday 24 April. As in some Member States the gender pay gap has widened, MEPs urge the Commission to better enforce the existing legislation by imposing more effective sanctions.

"The pay gap starts to be visible after a woman’s return to work from her first maternity leave, and grows with age and at an educational level. All this makes the gender pay gap a serious social problem, resulting in feminisation of poverty. Although the EU has legislation on equal pay for equal work, the gap among women and men is persistent", said rapporteur Edit Bauer (EPP, SK).

MEPs call on the Commission to propose new measures to oppose inequality in pay between the sexes in all relevant EU policies and national programmes. They also ask national governments to increase cooperation and develop new ideas to tackle the gender pay gap.

Sanctions for a more effective strategy

In view of the lack of progress, MEPs urge Commission and Member States to reinforce the existing legislation with appropriate types of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions. These should include penalties, administrative fines and disqualification from public benefits and subsidies.

A directive to enforce the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women came into force in 2008, and, amongst other things, it introduced dissuasive penalties.

Legal experts, however, believe that no profound changes have been made in national legislations, and no sanctions have been taken against employers, says the resolution.

Persistent gender pay gap

Women across the European Union earn on average 16.4% less than men. Progress is extremely slow, and in some Member States the gap has even widened, as pointed out by the adopted text.

The causes of the persistent high gender pay gap are complex and often interrelated. They include discrimination, as well as social and economic factors such highly segregated labour market, undervaluing of women’s work, traditions and stereotyping, including in the choice of educational paths.

Next steps

The draft report will be put to a plenary vote on 24 May 2012 in Strasbourg.

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