European women are still earning less than European men for the same job. Precisely 16.2 percent less, according to the latest figures published by the European Commission last month. That would mean women would have to work an extra 59 days per year to match the pay of their male counterparts.
Data reports have been released across Europe on March 8 – International Women’s Day – and the statistics tell a familiar story despite European efforts to reach pay parity among the sexes.
A report by Britain’s Warwick Institute for Employment Research suggests that the gender pay gap appears as soon as graduates join the workforce.
The disparity varies depending on the degree subject, and is most evident in the law, finance and engineering. A female law graduate, for example, can expect to earn a starting salary of £20,000 (23,000 euros), while a male with a law degree will on average take home £28,000 (32,000 euros) per year in his first job.
Across the graduate workforce in general, women fresh from university will earn between £21,000 and £24,000 (24K-27.5K euros), while men are taking home £24,000 or above.
The pay gap was narrower in teaching and among workers at not-for-profit organisations.
France considers punitive measures
French statistics agency INSEE provides similar figures; its report claims that on average a French woman’s income was 28 percent lower than a French man’s in 2010.
The country’s Women’s Rights Minister has promised that companies that do not respect equal pay legislation will be punished if they do not mend their ways within the next six months.
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said that when the present Socialist government took power “half of companies had not even made the effort to write up assessment reports (on equal pay), as the law demands.”
She added: “There will be sanctions in six months’ time if nothing is done about it. These sanctions could amount to one percent of the payroll, which should be dissuasive.”
The European Commission has proposed introducing quotas at the top end of the scale, in the hope that the effect will trickle down.
European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding put forward plans last November to impose a 40 percent quota of women on the boards of companies with more 250 employees or those with annual revenues of over 50 million euros. But these proposals have proven divisive within Europe, with Germany a notable opponent of such measures.