The gender pay gap, the difference between pay received between women and men, exists across the European Union. In the UK the gender pay gap is 10.2 per cent – not the worst in the EU but still far too high. The gap is widest in Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia and narrowest in Belgium, Italy, Malta and Slovenia, according to Eurostat.
Yesterday the European Parliament passed a report on equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value. Despite having legislation on equal pay for over 50 years there is still a 16%-17% gender pay gap in the EU. All attempts to lessen and ultimately get rid of the pay gap between women and men are absolutely necessary, and this report is an important step.
In view of the lack of progress to date, MEPs urged the European Commission and member states to reinforce existing legislation with appropriate types of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for employers in breach of it. These sanctions should include penalties, administrative fines and disqualification from public benefits and subsidies.
It is not just that women are at a higher risk of falling into poverty. Statistics show that the gender gap is growing with age. There is also a gap when it comes to pensions and older women have a greater risk of falling into poverty than men do.
Even in sectors where women employees prevail, men tend to have higher salaries. Horizontal and vertical segregations of economic sectors are deeply rooted in the economies of all EU member states, but it has also much to do with culture and with society’s approach to motherhood.
It is really striking is there are now more women who graduate, and statistics show that women who start their working careers are better paid than young men in the UK. The gap appears for the first time when women return to the labour market after their first maternal leave. It is time to change the approach to motherhood and evaluate parenthood in society.
Yesterday’s report makes several concrete proposals, including:
- more transparency about the way salaries are negotiated and settled to prevent women receiving less than men
- the European Parliament should offer a “Women in Business Europe” prize to be awarded to employers
- employers to be required to carry out regular equal pay audits
- attention to part-time work where the gender pay gap is highest
- measures to ensure disadvantaged women and women with disabilities are not treated less favourably
- additional research on this issue to be carried out by the European Institute for Gender Equality as well as EU member states
- the European Commission to review and update existing legislation
- member states to behave in an exemplary manner regarding ending the gender pay gap and each to appoint an equal pay champion
You may be interested to know that British Tories voted against the paragraphs in the report outlining the first two of these recommendations.
Since the votes on these two paragraphs were recorded, I can tell you that the following Tories voted against both: Campbell-Bannerman, Chichester, Deva, Elles, Ford, Foster, Fox, Girling, Harbour, McClarkin, McIntyre, Stevenson, Swinburne, Tannock, Van Orden, Yannakoudakis. The leader of the ECR Martin Callanan voted against the second of these two paragraphs but did not appear to vote on the first.
All of the above abstained on the final vote to agree the report with the honourable exception of Marina Yannakoudakis who voted for it. Mr. Campbell-Bannerman, however, voted against.
If David Cameron is serious about gaining women’s votes and promoting gender equality, he really should do something about his errant MEPs.