You may have already read this post on the British Influence website. However, I am posting it on this blog just in case you missed it.
Last week saw MEPs set the goal of removing the pay disparity between men and women by 2020. The Resolution on Equal Pay – which went through decisively at thr European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg on Thursday – saw the 28 Member States make a collective promise to create a fairer pay deal. The resolution is particularly good news for women in the UK, which currently has the 6th worst gender pay gap of any EU economy.
The battle for gender equality has stalled in Britain since the recession hit in 2007, with many other European countries pulling ahead. British women are currently paid 20% less than men – a figure which rises to a terrifying 33% for jobs in The City of London. The problem is particularly bad for older women and those working in the private sector, where the pay gap is 24% (compared to 17% in the public sector).
Britain’s 1970 Equal Pay Act made it illegal for women to be paid less than men doing the same job, but it did not tackle the systemic reasons that mean women continue to earn less. Working women in the UK are twice as likely as men to be in low paid employment, and three times as liable to work part-time. They also continue to be penalised for motherhood.
The Resolution on Equal Pay urges the British Government – and others across Europe – to overcome these underlying issues. It puts an imperative on domestic politicians, asking that they reduce their countries’ respective gender pay gaps at a rate of 5% a year. For me the Resolution is a vindication of Britain’s involvement in Europe. It is a classic example of the EU leading from the front; collectively signing up to a positive goal, and working to help individual countries achieve it.
To be clear, this Resolution is only the first step in a long process towards gender equality. It symbolises a joint commitment by EU countries to eliminate the gap, but as yet it has not been enshrined in law. But I and others in the European Parliament are determined to making the 2020 vision for gender equality a reality, and will be pursuing the Resolution through to the next stage.
The most important thing in doing this is that we build a strong consensus on the subject. UKIP’s MEPs – all of whom are male – and other right-of-centre groups did their best to block the Resolution by abstaining or voting against last week. As the prospect of gender equality draws closer it is likely that they will step up their opposition – something which we must work together to contest.
The ideal set out in last week’s resolution – a 2020 Europe where women earn the same as men – may seem hard to imagine, but it is entirely achievable. All that is required is that progressive forces from across the political parties work together to make it happen.