Monday 2 November is a symbolic date which marks the day of the year when European women stop being paid, while men will continue to earn money until 31 December. This declaration of the Vice-President of the European Commission, Franz Timmermans and Commissioners Marianne Thyssen and Věra Jourová, aims to challenge all stakeholders about the pay gap that currently exists in the European Union between women and men.
According to several studies, for the same job, the average hourly wage for women in Europe is 16.3% lower than it is for men, so women effectively work 59 days for free each year. In France, the difference is 15.2%.
In a press release, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Franz Timmermans and Commissioners Marianne Thyssen (Employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility) and Věra Jourová (Justice, consumers and gender equality) found that pay gap is already “unfair, unjustified and unacceptable” in the short term. But in the long term, the accumulation throughout women’s career exacerbates inequality. Indeed, successive wage gaps will directly affect their pensions. On average, women’s pensions are 39% lower than men’s.
Knowing that today 60% of university graduates in the EU are women, why these inequalities persist? The causes are multiple. First, women still do more unpaid work than men (housework, care for children). Further, women are more likely to take career breaks to care for others than men. To this can be added the “glass ceiling”, which prevent women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.
European Commissioners denounce these practices and recall that equality between women and men is one of the fundamental values of the European Union. Aware that the reality is different, they conclude that at the current pace, it would take 70 years to achieve equal pay – “that’s not one generation, but two”.
To accelerate this process, the European Commission wants to work more with the Member States, local authorities and other stakeholders, and support them in the implementation of effective policies to tackle the pay gap between women and men, and career’s inequality in general.
Infographic: Equal pay? It’s time to close the gap