EU revives controversial quota system and wage transparency to bridge gender pay gap

EU revives controversial quota system and wage transparency to bridge gender pay gap
Copyright Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Copyright Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
By Isabel Marques da SilvaJoanna Gill
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The bloc has also launched a public consultation on salary transparency to get companies to open up on what they pay their employees.


Ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March, the European Commission has launched its gender equality strategy - reviving some controversial policies such as quotas and pay transparency. 

The EU is hoping to close the gender pay gap once and for all - but what are its chances of getting the approval of member states and businesses? We asked trade unions and business lobbies in Brussels what they want.

Wage transparency

Ending the culture of wage secrecy in the private sector is one of the new priorities for the European Commission.

Two thirds of EU member states have no pay transparency measures, but there are examples of good practices in Ireland, Belgium, France, Finland and Sweden.

"It is evident that you cannot compare salaries unless there is pay transparency. It is very important that we speak to all the stakeholders. The aim is to achieve this pay transparency in order to be able to move on to address the gender pay gap," Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli told reporters.

But how would the EU manage to force businesses to come clean? Tactics can go from including the pay range in job adverts to mandatory reports about salaries that will be subjected to audits. But the business sector prefers another approach.

"We don't think that binding transparency goals would specifically improve the situation because we have seen in some member states that this was rather producing complexity," explains Markus J. Beyrer, Director General, Business Europe. "What we need to do is to really improve child care facilities and facilities for other family members that might need be cared for."

Gender quotas

The gender pay gap in the EU stands at 16%, and there are big differences across the EU, ranging from 5% in Romania to 25% in Estonia.

Other measures in the EU strategy will be to get at least 50% women on companies boards. Today there are less then 8% of female CEOs in the EU's largest companies, so trade unions call for mandatory quotas.

"Often the women at the top try to do the right thing and this law will help them," says Esther Lynch, deputy secretary-general European Trade Union Confederation. "This law will make them able to go to the boardroom and say "I want pay equality in this company, the law backs me up, you have to do it, help me do it."

Violence against women

Another priority will be to combat physical and sexual violence which affects 33 per cent of women in the EU.

Six member states have not even ratified the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women (Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia).

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