An action plan to tackle Europe’s gender pay gap

Closeup of business man and businesswoman

The European Commission (EC) has released an action plan to tackle Europe’s gender pay gap from all possible angles between now and the end of 2019.

According to the EC, women in the European Union (EU) earn on average over 16 per cent less per hour than men do.

It adds that this gender pay gap has been plateauing over the past five years and at the current rate of change, it would only be closed at the breach of the next millennium.

It says most European workers have colleagues mainly of the same sex and the sectors where women are clustered are often lower paid than those where men are clustered.

‘Women are still under-represented in decision-making positions in politics and the business world,’ says EC Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová. ‘The gender pay gap must be closed, because the economic independence of women is their best protection against violence.’

The EC’s action plan prioritises eight areas for action:

  1. Improving the application of the equal pay principle by assessing the possibility to amend the Gender Equality directive.
  2. Combating segregation in occupations and sectors.
  3. Breaking the glass-ceiling by funding projects to improve the gender balance in companies at all management levels. Plus, encouraging governments and social partners to adopt concrete measures to improve gender balance in decision-making.
  4. Tackling the care penalty by urging the European Parliament and member states to adopt swiftly the work-life balance proposal of April 2017.
  5. Better valorising women's skills, efforts and responsibilities.
  6. Fighting the fog: unveiling inequalities and stereotypes.
  7. Alerting and informing about the gender pay gap.
  8. Enhancing partnerships to tackle the gender pay gap.

The action plan is accompanied by an evaluation report of the Pay Transparency Recommendation, which the EC adopted in 2014 .

The EC notes: ‘Pay transparency is a key lever in bringing gender pay differentials within companies to light. Despite the adoption of the Pay Transparency Recommendation, in a third of EU member states measures aimed at increasing pay transparency are entirely absent.’

The EC adds that next year, it will have a closer look at the need to clarify the legal provisions on equal pay that are in the Directive on equal treatment between women and men in employment and occupation.

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