Malta, Italy and Greece have the biggest gender employment gap in the European Union, while Lithuania and Finland have the smallest divide, according to new data.
The data from 2017, released by Eurostat on Tuesday, showed that Malta had a 24.1% employment gap, compared to 19.8% in Italy and 19.7% in Greece.
At the other end of the spectrum, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden and Latvia had a gap of less than 5%.
The results were based on the employment rate of men and women aged between 20 and 64 in EU countries.
Worst pay gap sectors
The findings reveal that in 11 EU member states, the gender pay gap was most distinct in the financial and insurance sectors, with the gross hourly earnings for women on average more than 30% below those of men in 2016.
Four member states had the highest gender pay gaps in the professional, scientific and technical activities sector.
In contrast, many reported higher average earnings for women than for men in the construction sector and within water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation work.
The report says it might be due to the so-called selection effect, meaning that only women with higher skills are attracted to these industries.
However, overall the gender employment gap narrowed by 6.6% between 2001 and 2017.
The strongest reduction occurred during the economic crisis. The report puts it down to jobs losses in traditionally male-dominated fields, such as construction and the automotive industry.
Reasons for the inequality
Caring responsibilities were highly cited as reasons for lower female presence in the workplace, especially in countries where childcare services or facilities taking care of elderly and other dependent relatives are unaffordable or absent.
Moreover, it said the longer that women were out of the labour market or remain unemployed because of care duties, the harder it was for them to find work.
Political and corporate cultures were also quoted as reasons why women are underrepresented in decision-making processes, with regard to leadership positions. This is something the EU has set as a priority to change.