Policies to encourage men to be more active parents would help reduce the EU’s gender pay gap, a UN report claims.
Latest figures from Eurostat, released to coincide with International Women’s Day on Sunday (March 8), shows there was a 16.4 percent EU gender pay gap in 2013, down from 17.3 per cent five years earlier.
The UN’s International Labour Organization [sic] (ILO) says at the current rate of progress it will be 71 years before gender pay equity is achieved.
Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Estonia had a gap of 20 percent or more, while Spain, Hungary, Slovakia, Finland and the United Kingdom were all above the EU average.
EU’s gender pay gap country-by-country
Just one-third of women in the EU are in management roles, while more than two-thirds work in clerical support, according to the figures.
Therese Murphy, head of operations at the European Institute for Gender Equality, said the disparities could be helped by more parental leave for men and educating children to think about careers that are not traditionally sought-after by their gender.
She said: “It’s all very well being a high-level executive or being involved in the financial sector but it is high-pressured and doesn’t allow for flexibility so you have to make a choice between family and work.
“As a result men are generally being denied their human right to be a parent because they are expected to work 12 hours-a-day. There is no flexibility, they are being penalised if they want parental leave.
“That needs to change because it means women are then staying at home as a result – which then impacts on the gender pay gap.”
But the ILO says there is greater recognition of men’s parental responsibilities. In 1994 just 28 percent of countries surveyed provided some form of paternity leave; in 2013 that had jumped to 47 percent, the organisation claimed.
Scandinavian countries are the most generous in the EU in terms of paternity leave. Sweden gives 13 weeks and Finland nine, according to data from the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS).
Sweden’s gender pay gap is 15.2 percent and Finland’s 18.7 percent, either side of the EU average. But both have made progress in cutting their disparites, compared with 2008 figures.
Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Ireland do not have any paternity leave, according to EPRS.
The European Commission has vowed to reduce the gap by enforcing existing equal pay legislation and seeking to improve pay transparency.
Viviane Reding, the EU’s former justice commissioner, said: “The pay gap has only narrowed marginally in recent years. To make things worse, the very slight decreasing trend for the past few years is largely a result of the economic crisis, which has seen men’s earnings decrease, rather than women’s earnings increase.
“Equal pay for equal work is a founding principle of the EU, but sadly is still not yet a reality for women in Europe. Following years of inaction, it is time for a change.”
It comes as Germany debates a law that, if approved, would require all listed companies in the country to give 30 percent of seats on non-executive boards to women.
Among the 30 largest companies on Germany’s blue-chip DAX index, women occupied only 7 percent of executive board seats and barely 25 percent of supervisory board seats by the end of June, according to the DIW economic think-tank.
In 2003, Norway became the first country in the world to impose a gender quota requiring at least 40 percent of public limited company board members to be women.
Other countries, including France, Spain and the Netherlands, have followed with similar requirements.
In Sweden, the new government wants to introduce quotas to bring more women onto company boards if businesses don’t act themselves during the next two years.
The European Commission says only 16% of board seats at Europe’s largest companies are filled by women.
EU’s gender pay gap: employment rates
Scandinavian countries dominate the top five list of EU countries with the smallest differences between the proportion of men and women employed.
There is a link between these countries and those with lower gender pay gaps.
Of the five countries below, only Finland, with 18.7 percent, has a gender gap disparity larger than the EU average.
Graphics by Erik Nelson
EU’s gender pay gap: which type of positions do female workers hold?
This infographic shows just one-third of women in the EU are in management roles, while more than two-thirds work in clerical support.
A country-by-country breakdown shows Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary have the highest proportion of women in management roles.
The lowest are Luxembourg (16 percent) and Cyprus (19 percent), both well below the EU average, which is 33%.
Graphics by Erik Nelson
Get a different perspective
Every story can be told in many ways: see the perspectives from Euronews journalists in our other language teams.