Members' Research Service By / March 7, 2017

Gender pay gap

Written by Cristina Cardarelli and Ulla Jurviste, Despite consistent efforts over decades across Europe, according to recent studies today women…

Written by Cristina Cardarelli and Ulla Jurviste,

Gender Pay Gap - small

Despite consistent efforts over decades across Europe, according to recent studies today women are still paid on average 16% less than men per hour of work. The gender pay gap (GPG) is the difference between men’s and women’s pay, expressed as a percentage of male earnings. It is based on the average difference in gross hourly earnings of all employees, intended as wages or salaries paid directly to an employee before any deductions for income tax and social security contributions are made. In the EU, data on the gender pay gap is based on the methodology of the Structure of Earnings Survey (SES).

The GPG is officially defined as “unadjusted“, (e.g. not adjusted according to individual characteristics that may explain part of the earnings difference, such as differences in education, hours worked, type of job, breaks in career or part-time work due to childbearing) because it is intended to give an overall picture of gender inequalities in terms of pay. The GPG is the consequence of various inequalities in the labour market, such as different working patterns, differences in institutional mechanisms and systems of wage setting. It is linked to a number of legal, social and economic factors which go far beyond the single issue of equal pay for equal work. Data differ strongly between Member States, mainly as a result of institutions, policies and attitudes governing the balance between private and work life which impact on the careers and thus the pay of women.

Closing the gender gap has always been a priority for the EU. Based on the assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015, the European Commission released a Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019 as a reference framework for increased effort at all levels. One of its 5 key priorities is reducing the gender pay, earnings and pension gaps and thus fighting poverty among women. Both strategies were elaborated within the framework of the European Pact for Gender Equality (2011-2020). The EU is also supporting several initiatives for raising awareness on the issue like the International Women’s day and the Equal Pay Day.


Gender Equality / DG Justice.
This website gives an overview of the mean measures and of the EU on gender equality, including gender pay gap. Particularly it contains a compilation of documents on the topic, including gender pay gap factsheets country by country. See also the infographic The gender pay gap in the European Union and the site Equal pay? It’s time to close the gap of DG Justice with the main basic information on the issue.

Tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union / DG Justice, 2014
Brief document explaining the main causes of the gender pay gap, the benefits of closing it and the main actions undertaken by the EU.

Equal Pay Day – 3 November 2016 / European Commission Press Release
The EU-wide event marks the date in the new calendar year from which women really begin to be paid for their work as compared to men. According to the latest figures, women in Europe still work 16% of the year ‘for free’ until they match the amount earned by men.


Gender pay gap

gender pay gapGlobal Wage Report 2016/17 / ILO, 2016
This new ILO Global Wage Report contributes to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by making comparative data and information on recent wage trends available to governments, social partners, academics and the general public. These trends show that global real wage growth dropped sharply during the post-2008 economic crisis, recovered in 2010, but has since decelerated. More specifically, the report analyses the extent to which overall wage inequality is the result of wage inequality between enterprises and wage inequality within enterprises. The report includes an analysis of the gender pay gap.

The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations / Francine D. Blau, Lawrence M. Kahn, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 21913, January 2016 Full PDF available here.
The long term study of data from 1980-2010 focuses on the USA, but in a comparative perspective, and the authors suggest that the results may also be applicable to other advanced economies.

Gender inequality

Transition for all: Equal opportunities in an unequal world / European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Transition Report 2016-17
This is the first Transition Report to deal exclusively with the important subject of inequality and economic inclusion. It focuses on a number of key aspects of inclusive growth: the distribution of income; the impact that the transition process has had on people’s well-being and happiness; equality of opportunity; and financial inclusion. It also covers in particular the issue of unequal salaries because of gender reasons, among others.

Gender Equality Index / The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), 2015
The Gender Equality Index provides a comprehensive measure of gender equality, tailored to fit the EU policy context. Following the importance of cohesion across EU Member States, the Index ensures that higher gender equality scores can only be obtained in societies where there are small gender gaps and high lev­els of achievement. The next update of the index is in 2017.

Motherhood / Parenthood

Parenthood and the Gender Gap in Pay / Angelov, Nikolay and Johansson, Per, Journal of Labor Economics, The University of Chicago Press, 2015
We compare the income and wage trajectories of women to those of their male partners before and after parenthood. Focusing on the within-couple gap allows us to control for both observed and unobserved attributes of the spouse and to estimate both short- and long-term effects of entering parenthood. We find that 15 years after the first child has been born, the male-female gender gaps in income and wages have increased by 32 and 10 percentage points, respectively. In line with a collective labor supply model, the magnitude of these effects depends on counterfactual relative incomes or wages within the family.

The motherhood pay gap: a review of the issues, theory and international evidence / Damian Grimshaw, Jill Rubery, ILO, 2015
Definition: The motherhood pay gap measures the pay gap between mothers and non-mothers, the latter defined in most econometric studies as women without dependent children. It also measures the pay gap between mothers and fathers. This is different from the gender pay gap, which measures the pay gap between all women and all men in the workforce. While there is a considerable international literature on the motherhood gap, differences both in methodologies and in how mothers, non-mothers and fathers are defined using available data create difficulties in comparing estimates. The report also looks at trends, explanations and ways of addressing the motherhood pay gap.

Gender gap in pensions

Gender gap in pensions in the EU: Research note to the Latvian Presidency / Ilze Burkevica, Anne Laure Humbert, Nicole Oetke, Merle Paats, EIGE, 2015
The gender gap in pensions can be understood as the sum of gender inequalities over a lifetime, including differences in the lifecourse (motherhood penalty), segregated labour market and gendered social norms and stereotypes more generally. Therefore, it is important not only to illustrate this equation, but also to consider how the gender gap in pensions relates to wider gender inequalities in society. This research note aims to develop some of these aspects by providing an overview of current EU policy and subsequently the current state of play in relation to pensions through the EU Member States. It then contextualises the gender gap in pensions in the context of the core domains of the Gender Equality Index and describes current inequalities in relation to economic independence. It concludes by discussing how to challenge current gender inequalities to work towards the eradication of the gender gap in pensions in the future.

Measuring Gender Pay Gap

Measuring the gender gap / European Commission, DG Justice and Consumers, 2016
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and Switzerland have developed tools and conducted surveys regarding gender gap in their territories.

Case studies

Action at national level: examples – Case Studies on the gender pay gap / European Commission, DG Justice and Consumers, 2016
Within the Gender Equality website of DG Justice, there is a section with examples of cases of unequal payment between men and women based on actual cases that have been referred to national courts and/or the European Court of Justice.

Equal Pay for work of Equal Value EU framework and CJEU Case Law / Catherine Rayner, Academy of European Law – Gender Documentations, April 2014, 14 p.
This presentation outlines the international and EU legal framework of gender pay gap.

Critiques of the EU approach to the gender pay gap

Contradictions and misalignments in the EU approach towards the gender pay gap / Marco Peruzzi, Camb J Econ (2015) 39 (2): 441-465.
The aim of this paper is to highlight the tensions within the EU’s ‘governance architecture’ concerning pay equality. Specifically, after a preliminary outline of the theoretical discussion on the EU’s new/old governance, the analysis focuses on two empirical fields. The first one enables an assessment of the contradictions between old and new governance in EU equal pay policy. The second empirical field enables an assessment of the tensions within the EU’s new governance system itself, specifically between the approach in the area of equal pay and in the area of economic policy, with specific regard to the participatory role of the social partners in tackling the GPG. As the paper finally remarks, both empirical fields of investigation confirm a narrowing down of pay equality in the context of an EU flexibility-centred and neoliberalist political perspective.

Stakeholder views

The European Parliament

Report on poverty: a gender perspective. EP Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. 2015/2228(INI), 26 April 2016.
This report highlights, among other issues, the problem of the gender pay gap in EU countries and considers that national authorities should prioritise it. It considers that the pay pension gaps which results from disrupting a career path in the attempt to combine private and professional lives place on the shoulders of women in financial difficulties a heavy burden and day-to-day uncertainty as to their economic independence. It reiterates the calls of the EC to revise the existing legislation.

European Parliament resolution of 8 October 2015 on the application of Directive 2006/54/EC on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation. 2014/2160(INI), 8 October 2015
The resolution recalls that gender pay gap still exists and that pensions gaps are even higher. It also reiterates the need for clear harmonised definition of gender pay gap. Finally, it points out that the current calculation of the gender pay gap can lead to a distorted understanding of the problem of equal pay and calls on the Commission to analyse these possible distortions and to propose adequate solutions.

Towards gender equality in employment. EPRS, 1 October 2015
At a glance publication of the European Parliamentary Research Service explaining briefly the main issues in gender equality in the labour market, including gender pay gap.

Economic independence and the position of women on the labour market of the European Union. In-Deph Analysis. European Parliament, DG IPOL, PE 509.990, August 2014, 36 p.
This study examines the position of women on the labour market, drawing particular attention to factors behind the gender pay gap and the gender gap in pensions. The current crisis presents aspects that no other crisis has shown before. On the surface, gaps between men and women are being bridged but under the surface things are more complex and effects more diversified. Overall, there is a need to introduce a gender perspective in the recovery measures: it would help to get out of the current situation sooner and better

Gender Mainstreaming in Committees and Delegations of the European Parliament / Istituto per la Ricerca Sociale (IRS) et al.; European Parliament DG IPOL, PE 493.051, March 2014, 370 p.
The study aims at assessing to what extent the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) of the European Parliament contributed to the effective implementation of gender mainstreaming in European Parliament activities in the period between July 2011 and February 2013. Gender mainstreaming (GM) in the work of AFET, AGRI, BUDG, ENVI and LIBE is also analysed. Moving from the assumption that one of the prerequisites for the success of GM lies within institutional factors and conditions, several social mechanisms are identified in the EP decision-making process. Their strategic use could contribute to better address men’s and women’s needs in European legislation and other policy-making.

European Parliament resolution of 12 September 2013 on the application of the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value, 2013/2678(RSP), 12 September 2013.

European Added Value Assessment Application of the principle of equal pay for men and women for equal work of equal value, Rapporteur Edit Bauer, EAVA, PE 504.469. See also Annex I Social and Labour Market-Related Aspects, Dr Juliet Webster, EAVA, PE 504.469; Annex II, Usman Khan (Modus Europe) Andrea Broughton, Stefanie Ledermaier, Catherine Rickard & Stefan Speckesser (Institute for Employment Studies), Jacque Mallender (Matrix Insight), EAVA, PE 504.469; Annex III Legal Aspects, Cultura Lavoro srl, EAVA, PE 504.469.

The European Commission

Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019 / European Commission, DG Justice and Consumers 2015, 27 p

Magnitude and Impact Factors of the Gender Pay Gap in EU Countries / European Commission, DG Justice and Consumers, 2016, 148 p.
This study undertakes a comprehensive analysis of the sources of wage differences between male and female workers in Europe. Its main purpose is to shed light on the interplay of so far neglected explanatory factors as well as to reveal country differences in the roles of these factors.

Report on equality between women and men 2015 / European Commission, DG Justice and Consumers, 2016, 64 p.
The present report takes stock of the EU’s achievements in 2015 in the six priority areas – including Equal pay for equal work and work of equal value – outlined in the 2010-2015 Strategy for equality between women and men. It also provides a reference point for monitoring and assessing future developments and contains statistics on Member States’ starting points.

Analysis of the public consultation: “Equality between women and men in the EU” / European Commission, DG Justice and Consumers, 2015, 40 p.
The purpose of the public consultation on the topic “Equality between women and men in the EU” launched by DG Justice and Consumers was to collect views and identify priorities from a broad range of stakeholders in the context of the preparation of the Commission’s policy framework on equality between women and men after 2015.

Member states comparative analysis

Magnitude and Impact Factors of the Gender Pay Gap in EU Countries. Country fiches / European Commission, DG Justice and Consumers, 2016, 24 p.
Individual fiches on the main figures of pay gap country by country.

The Global Gender Gap Index / World Economic Forum, 2016.
The Global Gender Gap Report, introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006, provides a framework for capturing the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities around the world. The Global Gender Gap Index seeks to measure one important aspect of gender equality: the relative gaps between women and men, across a large set of countries and across four key areas: health, education, economics (including remuneration gap) and politics. To complement this information, the Country Profiles contain a comprehensive set of supporting information that provides the broader context on gender parity laws, social norms, policies and outcomes within a country.

Gender Equality Index Country Profiles / EIGE, 2015
The Country Profiles is a complementary publication to the main Gender Equality Index report. It provides the Gender Equality Index scores and gives supplemental comparable information on each Member State and the EU-28 overall. It constitutes a measure of how far (or close) each Member State was from achieving gender equality in 2005, 2010 and 2012 and enables a first glimpse at the changes in gender equality over time.

Gender Inequality Index, Table 5 / Human Development Report, UNDP, 2015.
The Gender Inequality Index (GII) is part of The Human Development Index (HDI). The GII is an inequality index that measures gender inequalities in three important aspects of human development—reproductive health, measured by maternal mortality ratio and adolescent birth rates; empowerment, measured by proportion of parliamentary seats occupied by females and proportion of adult females and males aged 25 years and older with at least some secondary education; and economic status, expressed as labour market participation and measured by labour force participation rate of female and male populations aged 15 years and older.

Social partners and civil society

ETUC Action Programme on gender equality 2016 – 2019 / ETUC, 7-8 June 2016,7 p.
The Action Programme on Gender Equality sets the priorities on equality between women and men of ETUC members at both European and national level. Its second’s priority consists in promoting equal economic independence of women and men, fight to eliminate the employment, gender pay and pensions gap.

Breaking down the barriers. Macroeconomic policies that promote women’s economic equality / Gender & Development Network, Briefing, May 2016
The achievement of women’s economic equality and empowerment (WEE) is pivotal to the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, yet it has received inadequate attention to date. The ground-breaking Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) called for the promotion of “women’s economic rights and independence, including access to employment, appropriate working conditions and control over economic resources.”1 In the subsequent two decades, however, most gender equality work shied away from the economic sphere. When WEE has been discussed, too often it is in relation to generating economic growth rather than gender equality and the fulfilment of women’s rights.

ETUC Position on the Second Stage Consultation of the social partners at European Level under Article 154 TFEU on possible action addressing the challenges of work-life balance faced by working parents and caregivers / ETUC, 6 October 2016
On 12 July 2016, the European Commission launched the second stage consultation of the European social partners on possible action addressing the challenges of work-life balance faced by working parents and caregivers. In the document, the Commission provided an overview of the responses of the European social partners to the first stage consultation launched on 11 November 2015. Regarding pay gap, ETUC considers that in order to attain the goal of reducing the persistent pay gap between women and men, it is crucial that the statutory period of maternity leave as proposed by ETUC be remunerated 100 per cent. At the same time, ETUC thinks that existing legal provisions on parental leave should be improved because that will help to reduce the gender pay gap.

ETUC position on first-stage consultation of the EU social partners on a ‘New start’ for work-life balance / ETUC, 15 January 2016.
On 11 November 2015, the European Commission formally consulted (under Art. 154(2) TFEU) the European social partners on the possible direction of the EU action concerning legislative measures to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by men and women. The ETUC is of the opinion that the consultation paper broadly points at the most important issues affecting reconciliation in a proper manner, including pay and pension gaps. Specifically, ETUC thinks that the issue of pay during maternity leave cannot be dissociated from the broader issue of the gender pay gap: reductions in pay during maternity leave contribute significantly to substantive pay inequality throughout women’s lives, as evidenced by the gender pension gap.

Resolution: Collective bargaining – our powerful tool to close the gender pay gap / ETUC, 29 June 2015
ETUC main priorities to reduce the gender pay gap are spelled out in Resolution ‘Reducing the gender pay gap’ from June 2008. 7 years onwards the ETUC wants to reaffirm its commitment to eliminate pay discrimination between women and men and to underline the positive role that collective bargaining can play to close it. This new resolution has a threefold objective: it stresses the role of collective bargaining in reducing the gender pay gap; it indicates collective bargaining practices that are successful in closing the gap; it gives an update on the gender pay gap at European level, by taking into account the effects of the economic downturn.

European Women’s Lobby contribution to the Mid Term Review of the Europe 2020 Strategy. A new impetus for gender equality – A new Purple Pact / European Women’s Lobby, 2014, 18 p.
Analysis of the organisation “European Women’s Lobby” of the Europe 2020 Strategy regarding gender issues. It includes its vision on measures for women’s employment and to close the gender Pay, Pensions and Poverty gaps.

A gender perspective on older workers’ employment and working conditions / Patricia Vendramin and Gérard Valenduc, ETUI, Working Paper 2014.03, 66 p.
This Working Paper aims to give a structured gender analysis of the working and employment conditions of older workers (aged 50 and over), including their financial situation. While working and employment conditions are increasingly recognized as key issues in ageing at work, gender disparities are still going under-considered. These are not only the outcome of horizontal (between sectors of activity) and vertical (between job categories) segregation that produce widely differing work situations for women and men; they are also about men and women’s respective career paths, how they impact on health among the over-50s, and changing workforce exit norms, not to mention opportunities for self-fulfilment in work and recognition at work. More broadly, women and men’s ageing at work is influenced by the unequal distribution of domestic work and the tasks of caring both for the older and younger generations.


Gender pay gap statistics / Eurostat, March 2017.
The article shows recent statistical data how gender pay gap varies widely among Member States of the European Union (EU) and among groups of employees.

Part-time employment of women in the EU increases drastically with number of children / Eurostat, March 2016 (Selection of gender-related data from Eurostat released for International Women’s Day).
In 2014, while 1 in 5 women in the EU (20.0%) aged 25-49 and without children were working part-time, this concerned 1 in 12 men (8.2%). And the gap widens with the number of children: almost half of women (45.1%) with at least three children were working part-time, compared with 7.0% for men in the same situation.

Gender wage gap / OECD, 2014

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