For the second year in a row European Equal Pay Day falls on the last day of February, marking the fact that women effectively work the first 2 months of each year for nothing, given the stark difference between women and men’s pay.
The gender pay gap, as the average difference in earnings is known, has barely moved in recent years and still stands at around 16% across Europe.
Small downward trend
Since Equal Pay Day was launched in 2011, there has been a marginal reduction in the gender pay gap from 17.5% to 16.4%.
In 2011, the event was held on March 5 - marking the fact that women worked ‘for free’ for the first 65 days of 2010. The second day took place on 2 March 2012 and the third on 28 February 2013.
The slight improvement over the last 4 years, however, is largely because the economic downturn has had a greater impact on some male-dominated sectors, such as construction or engineering, rather than because of any rise in women’s earnings.
Removing obstacles to equal pay
Other factors that have held back improvement in women’s pay and working conditions include a lack of transparency in pay systems and a lack of clarity in the legal definition of work of equal value.
A recent report on the implementation of EU rules on the equal treatment of women and men [82 KB] found that workers often lack the information they need to make a successful claim for equal pay. This includes accessing information about pay levels for different categories of employees.
Greater transparency in this area would allow victims of pay discrimination to compare themselves more easily to workers of the other sex.
The Commission is currently working on a new initiative which it hopes will further encourage equal pay for equal work - a founding principle of the EU.