EU-wide campaign seeks to eliminate gender pay gap

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Ahead of International Women’s Day (8 March), the European Commission yesterday (3 March) launched a EU-wide campaign to help narrow the pay gap between women and men and boost gender equality.

“In today’s economic climate, equality between women and men is more important than ever. Only by reaping the potential of all our talents can we face up to the crisis,” said EU Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimír Špidla. 

The Commission’s figures, released yesterday, show that women across the 27-nation bloc earn an average of 17.4 percent less than men. 

Employment of women in the EU has steadily risen in recent years, according to the Commission. Currently, 58.3% of women are employed compared with 72.5% of men. Women still work part-time more often than men (31.2% of women and 7.7% of men), and they remain trapped in low-wage sectors, like health, education and public administration, the EU executive found in a 2009 report.

The gloomy situation is worsened by the fact that women represent the majority (59%) of all new university graduates. 

“The gender pay gap has multiple causes and needs multiple solutions. Tackling it requires action at all levels and a commitment from everyone concerned, from employers and trade unions to national authorities and every citizen,” added Špidla. 

Involving women in politics and getting more women to fill high-level positions is seen as key to accelerating the drive for equality. The Commission yesterday presented an experts’ report confirming the under-represntation of women in economic decision-making and European politics. 

The experts said women make up just 31% of the European Parliament’s 736 MEPs, 24% of their counterparts in national parliaments and 25% of national government officials. 

According to the report, the central banks of all 27 member states are led by a male governor, while the workforces of the banks’ key decision-making bodies are dominated by men (83% compared with 17% women).

Aware of the discriminatory environment in EU politics, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) launched a petition last September to have equal representation of women and men in all EU institutions. 

“There will never be equal treatment in gender terms, as long as our decision-making institutions have a gender-biased membership. It is not just a matter of rights, it is a matter of sensitivity to the issues that deserve priority and to the manners of dealing with them,” writes Giuliano Amato, a former Italian prime minister and vice-president of the EU convention on the future of Europe, on the EWL campaign’s blog. 

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