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Pay gap: the need for a European strategy and national action plans

The average hourly pay gap between women and men remains at 18% within the European Union and, on an annual basis at 24%, according to the European Report released by the Belgian Presidency; in real terms the difference ranges between 6% and 34%. These figures have led Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Employment and Equal Opportunities, Joëlle Milquet to make the struggle against unequal pay one of three priorities for her equal opportunities programme during the Belgian Presidency of the European Union. The Minister therefore organized on 25 and 26 October, a conference on this theme, in collaboration with the European Commission.

I. Introduction

Joëlle Milquet’s ambition is to give a new impetus to Europe’s determination to eliminate the pay gap. Nearly 250 participants from national authorities responsible for equality between men and women policy, social partners, civil society, EU institutions and academia attended the conference to seek effective action strategies. Joëlle Milquet hoped to rally all key players and will submit the findings for adoption by the EPSCO Council in December 2010.
This thinking is part of a new context: that of the new EU 2020 Strategy for employment and intelligent, sustainable and inclusive growth. A major objective of this Strategy is to increase the employment rates of men and women, aged 20 to 64, to 75% by 2020. To do so, would require dramatically increasing the employment rate for women, which is currently 63%, while tending toward the essential principle of equal pay.

II. A need for European and National Strategy to overcome the pay gap

The conference helped to develop 10 major axes to focus on:
1. Implementation of national action plans to reduce the pay gap
2. Effective implementation and enforcement of equal pay legislation
3. Ensuring transparency of salaries
4. Elimination of vertical segregation
5. Overcoming stereotypes and horizontal segregation
6. Reconciliation of private and professional lives
7. Periodic measurement of the pay gap
8. Integrating targets in the National Reform Programmes
9. Relying on the European Commission
10. Empowering the social partners

The main ideas will be included in the conclusions adopted by the EPSCO Council in December 2010.

Read the full Presidency press release at:

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