EU’s commitment to closing the gender pay gap

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EU's commitment to closing the gender pay gapFirst EU equal pay day celebrated yesterday, the 5th of 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 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 the 5th of 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, the Tuesday, the 8th of March.

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