Sixteen point two percent: that's the size of the gender pay gap, or the average difference between women and men's hourly earnings across the EU, according to the latest figures released by the European Commission on Wednesday.
February 28 is observed EU-wide as the 2013 European Equal Pay Day. It marks the extra number of days that women would need to work to match the amount earned by men: currently 59 days, meaning this year the day falls on February 28. To help tackle the pay gap, the Commission is highlighting a series of good practices by companies in Europe which have taken on the problem. It is the third time the Equal Pay Day is observed at European level, following its launch by the Commission on March 5, 2011 and the second day on March 2, 2012.
"European Equal Pay Day reminds us of the unequal pay conditions women still face in the labor market. While the pay gap has declined in the recent years, there's no reason to celebrate. The pay gap is still very large and much of the change actually resulted from a decline in men's earnings rather than an increase for women," says Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner.
"The principle of equal pay for equal work is written in the EU Treaties since 1957. It is high time that it is put in practice everywhere. Let us work together to deliver results not only on Equal Pay Days, but on all 365 days a year," he added.
The latest figures show an average 16.2 percent gender pay gap in 2010 across the European Union. They confirm a slight downward trend in recent years, when the figure was around 17 percent or higher the previous years.
The declining trend in the pay gap can be explained by the impact of the economic downturn on different sectors, whereby sectors dominated by male workers (such as the construction or engineering sector) have seen bigger drops in earnings overall. The change is therefore not generally due to improvements in pay and working conditions for women. At the same time, the share of men working part-time or under less well-paid conditions has increased in recent years.
The Commission wants to support employers in their efforts to tackle the gender pay gap. The "Equality Pays Off" project aims to make companies more aware of the "business case" for gender equality and equal pay. With the challenges of demographic change and increasing skill shortages, the initiative aims to provide companies with better access to the labor force potential of women.
Certain European companies are taking measures to tackle the pay gap, the European Commission said in a press release. They include German media firm Axel Springer AG, Kleemann Hellas SA, a Greek lift producer, Lithuanian mobile communications company Omnitel, and IBM Germany.
One of the events under the "Equality Pays Off" project is a "Business Forum," to be held on March 21 in Brussels for 150 companies from all over Europe to exchange experiences in fostering gender equality, in particular tackling the causes of the gender pay gap.
The Commission is currently preparing a report on the application of the Equal Pay Directive. The report will focus in particular on assessing the application of the provisions on equal pay in practice. It will include an overview of the landmark EU case-law on equal pay. It will also include non-binding guidance on gender-neutral job evaluation and job classification systems. The report is scheduled for adoption in summer of 2013.
The Commission said it wanted to strengthen collaboration with the Member-States that organize their own national equal pay days. Member-States' representatives and stakeholders involved in the organization of these equal pay days will have the opportunity to discuss this issue in an exchange of good practices which will be held in June, 2013 in Estonia.
by RTT Staff Writer
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