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EU-wide actions have strong impact on issues that matter to women.

Women across the EU earn on average 17.4% less than men, according to new EU statistics, released as part of a commission campaign to narrow the pay gap between the sexes.

The report blames the disparity on traditions, stereotypes and problems in balancing work and private lives. The number of European women in the workforce is rising and 59% of all new university graduates are female. But they hold fewer positions of responsibility than do men and are concentrated in less lucrative professions.

“The economic slowdown is likely to affect women more than men, because women are more often in precarious jobs,” the report said.

The equal pay campaign aims to raise awareness of the pay gap and how it can be tackled. Launched on 3 March ahead of international women’s day, it runs up to August and will include an information kit for employers and trade unions, a website, posters and advertisements.

With its greying population, the EU needs women to expand the labour pool, especially in information technology. Europe’s IT sector is expecting a shortfall of 300,000 qualified engineers by next year, and fewer than one in five computer scientists in Europe is female.

This month five prominent IT companies - Alcatel-Lucent, IMEC, Orange-France, Microsoft and Motorola - signed an agreement to make tech jobs more attractive to women. The deal was negotiated by the EU, part of the commission's drive to attract more so-called "cyberellas" to the industry. Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding is urging other companies to follow their example.

In connection with international women’s day, the EU also sponsors a children’s drawing contest on the theme of equality between men and women. The winning drawings distributed in a booklet for schools.

With the European Parliament elections taking place in June this year, commissioner Margot Wallström has launched an online debate on women in politics.

More on situation of women and men in the EU

More on helping women around the world

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