EWL News

The European Commission must act now to close the gender pay gap

[Brussels, 4 Mayl] One of the political guidelines of candidate for President Ursula von der Leyen was to table measures to introduce binding pay-transparency measures in the first 100 days of her mandate . The European Women’s Lobby welcomed this announcement to close the gender pay gap with great enthusiasm.

The EWL joins the European Trade Union Confederation in calling on the European Commission and especially its President Ursula von der Leyen, to give a firm commitment to move ahead with the proposal for a Directive on Pay Transparency by end of this year.

This commitment has been reiterated multiple times by elected President Ursula von der Leyen and Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli. The Gender Equality Strategy launched by the European Commission in early March clearly announced that “the Commission will table binding measures on pay transparency by the end of 2020” with a strong commitment to eliminate the gender pay gap.

Acting on this commitment is now urgent. Women around Europe can’t wait longer for equal pay for equal work or work of equal value as enshrined in the Treaties. In light of rumours that EC proposals on pay transparency could be delayed, the European Women’s Lobby reminds the European Commission that this Directive is one of the key priority legislative measures to be adopted as part of its Strategy on Gender Equality and that it must be firmly kept on the agenda for 2020.

Reality of gender pay gap in Europe

Women in Europe still earn on average less than men for the same work or work of equal value: the gender pay gap is still at 15.7% in the EU. In addition, it has long-term consequences as witnessed by the startling almost identical life-long earnings and pension gaps of almost 40% . This means that women’s lifelong earnings are lower than men’s leading to the feminisation of poverty for women as they age. This inequality means that more than 20 % of older women are at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU, compared to 15 % of older men.

It is urgent that the gender pay gap is for once and for all a priority especially at this time of the COVID-19 crisis when women are at the forefront of providing all the essential services – they are the backbone that keep our society functioning.

Women make up the majority of 76% of healthcare workers in the EU. Women represent 82% of cashiers, 93% of childcare workers and teachers, 95% of domestic cleaners and helpers, and 86% of personal care workers. (EIGE, 2020). These sectors are characterised by poor pay and have been undervalued for far too long.

Postponing the pay transparency legislation would send a very negative message not only to women but also to the world: their work is not valued and will continue to be undervalued despite all their generous and tireless efforts. Women must not pay the price for the COVID-19 crisis. Now is more than ever the time for the EC to turn commitments into action and close the gender pay gap.

Pay transparency as a first step to close the gender pay and pension gaps

The pay and pension gaps are two sides of the same coin. Transparency in pay composition will make it easier for women to identify pay discrimination and how it relates to lower social protection contributions, which ultimately impacts their pension rights and income. A standard worker continues to be defined as a full time worker with an uninterrupted career cycle of 40-45 years, which mirrors more men’s working patterns than that of the majority of women. Women’s unpaid contribution especially in caring responsibilities is not only invisible, it simply doesn’t count.

As outlined in the European Commission Gender Equality Strategy, binding measures on pay transparency would help women detect gaps and discrimination and provide the necessary proof that they are being underpaid, by getting more information about pay levels in their workplace and to challenge these. Closing the gender pay gap is more urgent than ever, as all countries recognise that women’s contribution to the functioning of society and the economy is crucial in the throes of the public health pandemic and especially in its aftermath.

Join us in calling on the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to urgently propose a law on Pay Transparency by resharing @EuropeanWomen & European Women’s Lobby posts.

Women’s organisations are also urgently encouraged, to respond to the EC’s public consultation on pay transparency, before 28 May, by calling on the Commission to adopt binding legislation on pay transparency by the end of 2020. Women in Europe expect nothing less!

Find out more about EWL’s analysis of the gendered impact of the COVID19 health crisis and our recommendations for the European recovery in our full policy brief.

Find out more about the EWL’s proposals for a feminist economic model in the recently published Purple Pact

Photo credit: Erik Luntang @luntang

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