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EU gender pay gap won't be closed until 2104, new report says

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EU gender pay gap won't be closed until 2104, new report says
Copyright  Luca Bruno/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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The EU's gender pay gap won't be eliminated until 2104, according to a new report by one of Europe's largest workers' unions.

The European Trade Union Confederation's (ETUC) research demonstrates that at the current pace of change and unless action is taken, women won't be paid the same as men until the beginning of next century at the very earliest.

In some of the EU's wealthiest countries, the figures - taken from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union - are alarming.

In Italy and Germany, the gap won't be closed until 2074 and 2121, whereas in France, at the present speed, it wouldn't be eliminated for over 1000 years.

Yet some countries are still on track for equal pay this decade, such as Romania, which is on course for equal pay by 2022 and Belgium by 2028.

The ETUC's report comes amid a delay in promised European Commission action to end the gaping difference between pay for women and men, after it postponed its pay transparency directive from November 4 until December 15.

Opinions on how to bridge the gap are still divided, however, with the ETUC preferring legislation as the main course of action.

"There needs to be binding regulation to make pay transparency an obligation on the employer. It can't be that we all sit around and have to wait until by accident we find things out. " Esther Lynch, ETUC Deputy General Secretary told Euronews.

"But importantly there are lots of ways in which pay secrecy operates. So for example, you need to know when you apply for a job what's the rate of pay for that job. What was the last person paid? What are others people paid?" she continued.

Maxime Cerutti, Director of Social Affairs at BusinessEurope, says that the issue must be addressed at a grassroots level, educating citizens from an early age.

"The main issue that needs to be addressed is to address the issue of gender stereotypes and this starts very early in our societies. It starts with kindergarten when we don't have enough childcare infrastructure in Europe so that the women and the parents can work," Cerutti explained.

"We then have problems in education; education systems when there's not enough awareness on trying to progress towards gender equality. So there is a lot that can be done on raising awareness in society of gender stereotypes...so in our view EU legislative intervention is not the way to address the issue," he continued.

Another gender equality proposal that has been on the table for some time is the Gender Balance on Boards Directive, which was discussed by MEPs in Brussels on Monday.

It aims to ensure that companies listed on European Stock Exchanges make their boards up of at least 40% women, but it has been blocked by member states in the European Council for nearly eight years now, leaving little hope for its advocates.

But some MEPs think this is a less urgent issue than equal pay for all.

"The women on boards directive is really important to change the perception of women in decision-making positions and top jobs, but I think that is more for the group of women who have more privileges compared to low-wage women. So I think the first one is more important, but I think we need both," Kira Marie Peter-Hansen, a Danish Green MEP told Euronews.

No matter where people stand on the issue though, few will be arguing that Europe is ahead of the gender pay gap even though Ursula von der Leyen's Commission, seen as gender-balanced, has promised progress on the issue of gender equality.