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Woman laboratory researcher © istock/Lise Gagne

First EU equal pay day on 5 March signals a commitment to end discrimination against women at work.

Equal pay for equal work relates to one of the EU's founding principles, non-discrimination. While the pay gap between men and women doing the same job has fallen, progress has been too slow - women still earn 17.5% less on average than men.

Equal pay day is on 5 March for a specific reason. To match the amount a man earns in one year, a woman - earning 17.5% less - would have to work an extra two months - until 5 March.

The pay gap amounts to ongoing discrimination and inequality in the workplace and has far-reaching effects. For example, less pay means a lower pension. As a result, 22% of women aged 65 and over are at risk of poverty compared to 16% of men.

To counter this discrimination, the Commission will:

  • develop workplace programmes such as prizes, awards and rankings for companies improving gender equality
  • help employers identify and correct unjustified pay gaps providing them with the appropriate tools such as gender pay calculators
  • encourage women and men to enter professions where they are under-represented,
  • make it easier for both men and women to balance work-life duties,
  • improve pay transparency and the effect on equal pay of part-time and fixed-term contracts (often granted to women)

The EU also works to end another workplace discrimination - the gender barrier preventing women from advancing into top jobs.

Following a meeting with business leaders this week, the Commission launched a voluntary way for public companies to pledge they will raise the number of women on their boards to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2050.

After a year, the EU will assess progress. If it is unsatisfactory, the Commission will look at steps - including a law - to force change at the top. Currently, only 12% of board members of Europe's largest companies are women.

The approaches to end discrimination follow the Commission's gender equality strategy and will also be highlighted on International Women's Day on 8 March.

More on gender equality

Pay gap campaign

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