Enough of the gender pay gap: in Europe women work two months for free!

Europe’s persistent gender pay gap of 16.3% means that as from 3 November this year, women doing the same job as male colleagues are in effect working for nothing. Earning less simply because of their gender cuts the equivalent of two months’ wages from women’s annual pay packets!

The European Commission has launched a European Equal Pay Day campaign to draw attention to this unfairness, with EU Commissioners condemning it as “shocking and unacceptable injustice in 21st century Europe”.

While the ETUC supports this initiative, we emphasise that although equal pay between women and men was one of the European Union’s founding principles, after 60 years it has yet to be achieved.

“We are disappointed that the European Commission’s 2018 work programme contains nothing about closing the gender pay gap,” said ETUC Confederal Secretary Montserrat Mir. “The ETUC expects the ‘gender equality’ principle in the new European Pillar of Social Rights to be followed up with concrete action after it is adopted at the Gothenburg Summit on 17 November. We will be pushing hard for this and other principles in the Social Pillar to be implemented through ambitious measures to tackle the gender pay gap and improve the rights of working women and men.”

The ETUC also supported an event organised by women in the Party of European Socialists. The PES equal pay campaign invites women to set an ‘out of office’ message on their computers, pointing out that they are working for free until the end of the year, while male colleagues are still getting paid.

“For the past years, the gender pay gap has basically refused to budge,” admit EU Commissioners Věra Jourová, Marianne Thyssen and Frans Timmermans. “We urgently need to make progress with this stubborn issue, which affects women and our societies on many other points: Women still tend to work in lesser-paid sectors, get fewer promotions and are under-represented in management positions.”

Yet even when women do achieve promotion, they are no better off. According to Eurostat, female managers in the EU earn almost one-quarter (23.4%) less, on average, than their male counterparts, while paradoxically Member States refuse to adopt the proposed Directive to improve gender balance on company boards.

As part of its #ourpayrise campaign, the ETUC is demanding higher wages for women across the board, but especially for cleaners, catering staff, carers, cashiers and clerks – low-paid jobs where the majority of workers are female. Women make up over 80% of personal carers, cleaners and helpers, general and keyboard clerks, and health assistants. As a result, single-parent households with women as the sole breadwinner are also more exposed to poverty, including child poverty and consequent disadvantages. The ETUC has also adopted a resolution encouraging more and better use of collective bargaining to eliminate the gender pay gap in companies and sectors.

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