The EU executive will review its actions on the gender pay gap this year and may consider legislation requiring companies to be transparent about what they pay employees, a European Commission official told EurActiv.com.
Campaigners are marking International Women’s day today (8 March) by highlighting the divide between what men and women earn in the EU—a disparity that puts women’s earnings at on average 16% lower—or 84 cents for every euro earned by a man.
Women are also more likely than men to work under part-time contracts, a trend that worsens when women have children, according to Eurostat figures published yesterday (7 March).
Germany, despite being the EU’s strongest economy, has one of the most dramatic pay gaps separating men and women. While 25.3% of German women with no children worked part-time in 2014—compared to 9.6% of men—59.4% of German women with one child held similar jobs.
The EU executive asked member states to inform the Commission whether they have laws requiring companies to make salaries public by the end of 2015. An EU official said most countries have responded.
In 2014, the European Commission recommended that EU countries pass laws requiring salary transparency, which the executive called “essential for effectively applying the equal pay principle”.
The good, the bad and the ugly
To date, only a few EU countries have laws requiring companies to be transparent about what they pay employees.
One Commission official said the executive will this year analyse what impact the two-year old recommendation has had and consider “Do we need to go further?”
The official added that the executive might propose new legislation if it’s needed to make EU countries close their gender pay gap and make companies more transparent about how they pay.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans on Tuesday to force large companies to publish the difference in earnings between male and female staff in a bid to ensure equal pay.
Estonia has the EU’s most marked income disparity, with women earning 28.3% less than men. The EU average gender pay gap is 16.1%.
“The level of education of women workers is normally higher than that of male workers. However, women are often trapped in low-paying jobs, in less prestigious and less profitable sectors of the economy,” said Estonian ALDE MEP Yana Toom (Eesti Keskerakond), a member of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee.
“Undoubtedly, the situation of Estonian women in the labor market is affected by systemic gender discrimination,” she added.
Last year, the Commission told Estonia to shape up its bad track record on women’s pay—the first time the executive has issued a recommendation to a specific country on its pay gap.
Campaigners criticise the Commission’s recommendation on national income transparency laws as too weak.
“It should be legally binding. There should be sanctions, gender pay audits, and also action plans. Companies should have to demonstrate how they’ve been addressing gender pay gaps,” said Mary Collins, a policy coordinator at NGO European Women’s Lobby.
According to European Women’s Lobby, income disparity takes a drastic toll on women’s financial independence: on average, women have pensions worth 40% less than men’s and take in around 41% less in lifetime earnings.
Sharing care to offset fatherhood pay premium
In a study published this week, the International Labour Office highlighted that the gender wage gap is widened by women’s burden of care activities, while take-home pay and social benefits increase with professional seniority.