Gender pay gap

Written by Cristina Cardarelli and Ulla Jurviste,

gender pay gap

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The gender pay gap is the difference between men’s and women’s pay, expressed as a percentage of male earnings. It is based on the average difference in gross hourly earnings of all employees, intended as wages or salaries paid directly to an employee before any deductions for income tax and social security contributions are made. In the EU, data on the gender pay gap is based on the methodology of the Structure of Earnings Survey (SES).

The gender pay gap is officially defined as ” unadjusted “, because it does not take into account all of the factors that have an impact on it, such as differences in education, labour market experience, hours worked, type of job, etc.Despite consistent efforts over decades across Europe, according to recent studies today women are still paid on average around 16% less than men per hour of work. The obstacles to equality for women on the labour market are in fact several: discrimination in the workplace, undervaluation of their skills, underrepresentation in politics and economics, gender stereotypes, unequal pay systems, etc. These direct and indirect discriminations are at the basis of the high level of gender inequality across the EU economy and the society in general.

Closing the gender gap has always been a priority for the EU; in particular the commitment to achieve equal pay has recently increased. The European Commission’s Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015 reflects this interest. The Strategy sets out actions in five areas: the economy and labour market; equal pay; equality in senior positions; tackling gender violence; and promoting equality beyond the EU. The idea is that greater equality between men and women would bring benefits to the whole society and it might act as a source of economic recovery. Although finding a solution for gender pay gap is mainly in the ends of national governments and social partners, the EU has supported several initiatives to complement their work. The International Women’s day and the Equal Pay Day work as good platform for raising awareness on gender gap and implementing the integration process.


Gender Equality / DG Justice.
This website gives an overview of the causes of gender pay gap, what the EU is doing in the field, the situation in the EU member states, important steps in tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union  (see the summary ), and actions at national level .

Equal Pay Day – 28 February / European Commission Press Release, IP/14/190, 28 February 2014, 5 p.
It’s the fourth time the Equal Pay Day took place at European level. The EU-wide event marks the date in the new calendar year from which women really begin to be paid for their work as compared to men. According to the latest figures, women in Europe still work 59 days ‘for free’ until they match the amount earned by men .


Gender Pay Gap in the EU

Gender Pay Gap in the EU

Equal Pay for work of Equal Value EU framework and CJEU Case Law / Catherine Rayner, Academy of European Law – Gender Documentations, April 2014, 14 p.
This presentation outlines the international and EU legal framework of gender pay gap.

Gender Equality Index / EIGE.
The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) undertook the task of constructing a composite indicator that reflects the multifaceted reality of gender equality. The Gender Equality Index assigns a score from 1, total inequality, to 100, full equality. The gender approach takes into account the situation of women and men in various domains of economic and social life, including those where men are in disadvantaged situations. The target is the equality point, benchmarked in 100, and a given Member State is equally treated whether a gap is to the advantage of women or men. It enriches perspectives based on macro-level analyses by providing a synthetic, yet comprehensive and flexible, measure that can support the evaluation of the effectiveness of gender equality policies. See also Gender Equality Index Report 2013 /EIGE, 2013, 186 p.

Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now / OECD – Gender Publications, 17 December 2012, 296 p.
This new OECD report focuses on how best to close current gender gaps under four broad headings: 1) Gender equality, social norms and public policies; and gender equality in 2) education; 3) employment and 4) entrepreneurship.

Global Wage Report 2012-13 / ILO, 07 December 2012, 126 p.
The Global Wage Report contributes to a wider literature on the changes in the distribution and levels of wages within and across countries, as well as on the economic and social implications of these trends. One of the key findings of this literature is the growing inequality in income, in terms of functional and personal income distribution.

Women and Gender Inequalities in the Context of the Crisis / Eurobarometer survey, 2013.
The European Parliament asked TNS Opinion to carry out a survey on questions focused upon women and gender inequalities in the context of the crisis. The respondents consider that the candidates in the next European elections in 2014 should give priority to the following issues: tackling the pay gap (21%); violence against women (16%); the greater difficulties women have in reconciling their private and working lives (16%).

Stakeholder views

The European Parliament

European Parliament resolution of 12 September 2013 on the application of the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value , 2013/2678(RSP), 12 September 2013.

European Added Value Assessment Application of the principle of equal pay for men and women for equal work of equal value , Rapporteur Edit Bauer, EAVA, PE 504.469. See also Annex I Social and Labour Market-Related Aspects , Dr Juliet Webster, EAVA, PE 504.469; Annex II, Usman Khan (Modus Europe) Andrea Broughton, Stefanie Ledermaier, Catherine Rickard & Stefan Speckesser (Institute for Employment Studies), Jacque Mallender (Matrix Insight), EAVA, PE 504.469; Annex III Legal Aspects , Cultura Lavoro srl, EAVA, PE 504.469.

Report with recommendations to the Commission on application of the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value , Rapporteur Edit Bauer, Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, 2011/2285(INL), 10 May 2012.

The European Commission

Report on Progress on equality between women and men in 2013 / SWD (2014) 141 final, 14 April 2014, 52 p.
This Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions provides an overview of the main EU policy and legal developments on gender equality during the last year, as well as inspirational examples of policies and actions in Member States. It also analyses recent trends, on the basis of scientific evidence and key indicators that shape the debate on gender equality, and includes a statistical annex with more details on national performances.

Gender Mainstreaming in Committees and Delegations of the European Parliament / Istituto per la Ricerca Sociale (IRS) et al .; European Parliament DG IPOL, PE 493.051, March 2014, 370 p.
The study aims at assessing to what extent the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) of the European Parliament contributed to the effective implementation of gender mainstreaming in European Parliament activities in the period between July 2011 and February 2013. Gender mainstreaming (GM) in the work of AFET, AGRI, BUDG, ENVI and LIBE is also analysed. Moving from the assumption that one of the prerequisites for the success of GM lies within institutional factors and conditions, several social mechanisms are identified in the EP decision-making process. Their strategic use could contribute to better address men’s and women’s needs in European legislation and other policy-making.  

Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2013 / European Commission, Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion, 21 January 2014, 58 p. 16.
The following report offers an in-depth and wide-ranging review of key labour market and social challenges facing the EU as it slowly emerges from recession. Chapter 3 analyses the gender impact of the crisis and the gap in total hours worked. From the analysis emerges that the crisis, somewhat unexpectedly, reduced some of the gender gaps given that the male-dominant sectors were hit worse by the crisis. However, fundamental disadvantages remain, with diminished career opportunities, lower pay and lower prospective pensions. Overall, it remains to be seen whether the short-term offers an in-depth and wide-ranging review of key labour market and social challenges facing the EU as it slowly emerges from recession.  

International Women’s Day: Commission takes action to close the gender pay gap . European Commission Press release, – IP/14/222, 07 March 2014, 3 p.
The European Commission has asked to the Member States to improve pay transparency for women and men in a bid to help close the gender pay gap. The Commission is recommending that Member States improve wage transparency through a ‘toolbox’ of measures, including allowing employees to request information on pay, reporting by companies, pay audits for large firms and including equal pay in collective bargaining. Member States will need to report back to the Commission on what action they have taken to implement the recommendations by the end of 2015.

Member states comparative analysis

Gender Equality Index Country Profiles / EIGE, 2013, 160 p.
The Country Profiles is a complementary publication to the main Gender Equality Index report. It provides the Gender Equality Index scores and gives supplemental comparable information on each Member State and the EU-27 overall. Each Country Profile provides a closer look at country specific scores of the Gender Equality Index for 2010, and offers a comparison with the overall scores for the EU-27.

Gender Inequality Index, Table 4 / Human Development Report, UNDP, 2013.
The Gender Inequality Index (GII) is part of The Human Development Index (HDI), which measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. The GII reflects women’s disadvantage in three dimensions—reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market—for as many countries as data of reasonable quality allow. The index shows the loss in human development due to inequality between female and male achievements in these dimensions. It ranges from 0, which indicates that women and men fare equally, to 1, which indicates that women fare as poorly as possible in all measured dimensions.

The Global Gender Gap Index /World Economic Forum, 2013, 397 p.
The Global Gender Gap Report, introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006, provides a framework for capturing the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities around the world. The Global Gender Gap Index seeks to measure one important aspect of gender equality: the relative gaps between women and men, across a large set of countries and across four key areas: health, education, economics and politics. To complement this information, the Country Profiles contain a comprehensive set of supporting information that provides the broader context on gender parity laws, social norms, policies and outcomes within a country. See also the video of the “Global Gender Gap Report 2013” and the video of “Closing the Gender Gap”.


Gender pay gap statistics / Eurostat, February 2014.
The article shows recent statistical data how gender pay gap varies widely among Member States of the European Union (EU) and among groups of employees .


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