Equal Pay Day: EU women now working 'for free' until end of the year

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By Euronews
Euro coins and banknotes are shown by a salesclerk at a shop in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Euro coins and banknotes are shown by a salesclerk at a shop in Vilnius, Lithuania.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

Women in the European Union will from Tuesday and until the rest of the year "work for free" compared to their male counterparts.

That's because November 15 marks Equal Pay Day across the EU as women across the bloc continue to make 13% less than their male colleagues for an equal job. 

Progress on closing this gap has been slow. It has narrowed by just 2.8 percentage points over the past decade.

Eleven member states have already crossed their Equal Pay Day as the domestic gender pay gap is larger than the EU average, including in Latvia and Estonia where the difference in pay is over 20%.

Meanwhile, Luxembourg had the lowest difference in pay between men and women with women paid 0.7% less than their male colleagues. Romania and Slovenia come next with differences of 2.4% and 3.1% respectively.

"Equal work deserves equal pay: this is a founding principle of the European Union. Solving the injustice of gender pay gap cannot come without change to the structural imbalances in society," Commissioners Věra Jourová and Helena Dalli said in a joint statement. 

To narrow that gap, they called on EU countries to enhance work on ensuring the right conditions are in place for women and men to have more choice and to better share caring responsibilities and work.

"We count on the Member States to up their game on accessible, affordable, and high-quality early childhood education and long-term care – a prerequisite to support women's participation in the labour market."

Women bear the brunt of household and childcare duties with 7.7 million women out of employment because of care responsibilities, according to the Commission.

Jourová and Dalli also urged MEPs and EU states to adopt the European Commission's proposed Pay Transparency Directive as soon as possible.

"Transparency contributes towards ending gender bias in pay from the outset and empowers workers to enforce their right to equal pay for the same work or work of equal value," they said.

According to a Eurobarometer survey, nine out of ten Europeans (men and women) think that it is unacceptable that women are paid less than men for the same work.

The survey also found that 64% are in favour of the publication of average wages by job type and gender at their company.

The Dutch government, for whom Equal Pay Day also lands on November 15, said on Monday that it will launch a "social dialogue" on the issue.

"We need to talk about all aspects of the current inequality between men and women in the labour market," Social Affairs and Employment Minister Van Gennip said.

"The necessary cultural change is not happening fast enough. In the social dialogue I want to pay attention to the position of women in the labour market."