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European Parliament calls for stiffer sanctions for gender pay gap

[European Parliament, Brussels, 24 May 2012] Parliament urged the European Commission to improve existing EU legislation to close the gender pay gap, including stricter sanctions on employers, in a vote on Thursday. The request for a legislative proposal points out that the gender pay gap still averages 16.4% in the EU, and in some member states has even widened.

"After almost forty years of obviously ineffective legislation, member states have only made small changes to their own legislation to tackle the gender pay gap and sanctions are not being imposed on employers", said Edit Bauer (EPP, SK), author of the resolution, before the vote.

In the text, adopted by a qualified majority, MEPs call on the Commission to propose new measures to reduce inequality in pay between the sexes through all relevant EU policies and national programmes. They also ask national governments to step up cooperation and develop new ideas to tackle the gender pay gap.

The gap is widest in Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia and narrowest in Belgium, Italy, Malta and Slovenia (Eurostat figures).

Call for stiffer sanctions

In view of the lack of progress to date, MEPs urged the European Commission and member states to reinforce existing legislation with appropriate types of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for employers in breach of it. These sanctions should include penalties, administrative fines and disqualification from public benefits and subsidies, say MEPs.

Penalties that were designed to be dissuasive were included in an EU directive on equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women which came into force in 2008, but legal experts believe that no radical changes have been made in national laws, and no sanctions have been imposed on employers, says the resolution.

Causes of the gender pay gap

On average, women across the EU earn 16.4% less than men. Progress in closing the gender pay gap is extremely slow, and in some member states it has even widened, notes the text.

The causes are complex and often interrelated. They include discrimination, highly segregated labour markets, an undervaluing of "women’s" work, tradition and stereotyping, not least in the choice of educational paths, says the text.

Procedure: legislative proposal in accordance with TFEU Article 225

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