How is Europe tackling the gender pay gap?

Labour Party

Yesterday I wrote an article for Labour List, which set out what the European Union is doing to tackle the gender pay gap. It is recognised that from the start of this week until December 31 women effectively work for free due to pay inequalities between men and women.

You can read my article in full below.

It could not be more apparent (or obvious) that there is a gender pay gap in existence. A recent calculation carried out by the Fawcett Society found that from the start of this week until the end of the year women will effectively work for free. It was a contentious revelation with some denouncing the very idea as preposterous. But the Fawcett Society calculation does illustrate the issue of the gender pay gap which at the end of 2015, shockingly, remains unresolved.

As a Labour representative in Europe and Labour’s spokesperson in Europe for gender and equality I have worked for a long time to address the issue of gender and pay. Equality between men and women is a fundamental value which lays the foundations of the European Union. The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the EU treaties, and the European Parliament takes the issue of a gender pay gap increasingly seriously.

However, the reality is that we are a long way from achieving any form of parity. The average hourly wage for women in Europe is 16.3% lower than it is for men. This equates to women working for free for 59 days each year.

One of the most notable moves by the European Union was to introduce for the first time a dedicated Commissioner for women, at the start of the current mandate last year Commissioner Vera Jourova the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality is also taking the issue seriously. She stated in a speech earlier this month that urgent action was needed to tackle pay inequalities.

Meanwhile a consultation undertaken by the European Commission, the results of which were published in November, found that equality between men and women and the gender pay gap was the most urgent inequality that the European Union must address. Commissioner Jourova is clearly concerned and in response to this said: “At the current pace, the gender pay gap is declining so slowly that we will need to wait another 70 years to achieve equal pay – that’s not one generation, but two”.

There is support across the Commission for the issue, and Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the European Commission declared in a speech delivered in New York in September: “I am a feminist.” He said to the audience: “We tend to think of gender progress as a straight line. Some countries are lagging behind, but everyone’s moving in the right direction. In the end we’ll all get there. It’s a natural evolution – it’s happening by itself. Well, it’s not.”

Not only is a gender pay gap unjustified and unacceptable but the consequences are life long. The cumulative effect of the pay gap means women’s pensions are affected with calculations suggesting that women’s pensions are 39% less than men’s. Women need to have equal access to the workplace for as long as men in order to close the pension pay gap. This can be achieved by providing opportunities for women to enjoy their careers for the same length of time as men. We should be able to reach a situation where, if women choose, they are not forced to leave the labour market for lengthy periods in order to be the primary carers. This means encouraging men to take on their share of familial responsibilities, among other measures.

The Commission is seeking to address this very issue. In August it introduced a road map, known as New Start to Address the Challenges of Work-life Balance Faced by Working Families; it hopes to identify ways to combat the low participation of women in the labour market.

As well as looking at low participation of women in the labour market, the ‘new start’ initiative seeks to find ways to help parents or those with dependent relatives to find a better balance between their caring and professional responsibilities.

The programme will also seek to tackle the issue of affordable childcare and rigid working arrangements as well as the absence of incentives for men to take on more childcare responsibilities.

It’s not just a cultural shift required, legislatively there is also work which needs to be done. While legislation does exist which is meant to protect women in areas of un-equal pay there are problems with it being outdated and also concerns that its poor implementation and lack of thorough enforcement by member state governments has rendered it obsolete.

Earlier this year the European Parliament voted to adopt a report which examined the implementation of the EU Directive on equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in employment. The report found that the existing legislation had ‘reached its limits’ and stressed the urgent need for it to be updated.

The report also searched ways to overcome the problem of unequal pay and identified wage transparency as one effective tool to combat this. Mandatory wage transparency would also arm existing employees with knowledge concerning their own pay and benefits package but also provide the basis of evidence for victims who are seeking to initiate discrimination cases.

The report also recommended that there could be a complete overhaul of the existing directive. Such a move could include the introduction of things such as wage transparency and wage audits. It could also include other specific measures such as changing the burden of proof principle in cases where there are claims of alleged sex discrimination.

It is shocking that despite more than 40 years of legislation that the existence of a gender pay gap is so prominent and so obvious.

Total Politics Blog Awards 2011

Labour Party

Total Politics BLog Awards 2011

It’s that time of year again and the polls are now open for the Total Politics Blog Awards 2011.  Thank you to everyone who voted for me last year, it was very much appreciated.  If you have found my blog useful, informative, interesting, or hopefully all three, then please vote for me! You can click the Total Politics logo in this blog post which will take you to the voting page.

Things have changed  since last year.  You no longer have to email in your preferences but simply fill in the online form.  They have also changed the rules so that group blogs such as Labour List and blogs written by one person such as my own are voted for separately.  I think this is a very positive development, as the two formats are so distinctive it always seemed a little odd to judge them together.

I also want to mention that I will be advertising for an assistant in Brussels next week. I would be grateful if my regular readers could tell anyone they know who might be interested. I will be posting full details of how to apply on this blog next week.

Labour List Blog Post on Early Years Learning

Labour Party

Today I have written this piece for Labour List on my report on early years learning. You can read about the long term benefits of the Labour Party’s investment into early years learning and why it’s fundamental to keep this investment going.

Fringe Meeting on Blogging 4 – Mark Ferguson Labour List

Labour Party

Mark Ferguson the editor of Labour List talks about how blogging can be part of a joined up campaign to fight the Tory lead government. He describes how for some people blogging can be like a virtual General Committee (GC) meeting where people debate the political issues which affect their daily lives. Mark is realistic that blogging can only compliment campaigning, it cannot be a substitute for it.

Labour Bloggers fight the Coalition

Labour Party

The highlight of this year’s Labour Party Conference to be held from Saturday 25 to Thursday 30 September in Manchester, will obviously be the announcement of the election of the new Party Leader.

 However, life still goes on, and I have decided to organise a fringe meeting at the Conference on political blogging – bloggers for Labour no less.

 The meeting  How Social Media can drive a Wedge into the Coalition will be held on Monday 27 September at 6.00pm in Manchester Charter 1 in the secure zone.

 I will chair the meeting and am very pleased to have as speakers:

 Tom Harris MP for Glasgow South, Labour’s top MP blogger

Alex Smith, Editor of Labour List

Jessica Asato who is running David Miliband’s social media campaign

Councillor John Gray, blogger and UNISON activist

 With such a distinguished line up of speakers, I would now very much like to have a large, interested and appreciative audience.

See you in Manchester

Adam Harrison for Bloomsbury

Labour Party

I am extremely pleased that Adam Harrison, one of the best young Labour activists I know, has been selected at the last minute to stand in my ward, Bloomsbury, for Camden Council.  Voting will take place on 6 May as, unusually, the London Borough and General Elections will be held on the same day.  Late vacancies arise on occasion and I am delighted Adam has been selected.

You may have guessed that I have an interest to declare. Last year, when studying at the College of Europe in Bruges, Adam worked part time for me in Brussels. He returned to the UK and last autumn he also worked again for me part time.  Adam’s knowledge, commitment and enthusiasm will serve the people of Bloomsbury well.

He currently works for Progress producing their excellent daily news bulletin and is also involved with Left Foot Forward and Labour List .  Not content with politics as the day job, in his spare time Adam has been organising Labour’s campaign in the ward where I live Bloomsbury, and was therefore an obvious choice for the Council seat.

One of my traditional election day activities which I have done ever since moving to the area  is taking numbers at a polling station in Bloomsbury. I look forward to doing so for both Frank Dobson and Adam and confidently predict both will win.

Good to see you Blogging Jess

Labour Party

llpstratford-221108-0156[1]I am delighted to see Jess Cordingly blogging today on Labour List. Jess used to work for me in Brussels, and left earlier this year to become the Managing Director of Future First.

“Future First is a grassroots initiative working to empower young people who are at or have recently studied at a state school. Future First works with schools to build networks of former students to advise, inform and inspire current students about their future prospects.”

Her post is all about giving better opportunities to state school pupils, something I have always campaigned for, I was a school governor for many years.

Jess was also great fun to work with as this picture at the London Labour Party Conference in Stratford last year captures. I hope to see more posts from her,we need to redress the male preponderence of the blogosphere.

Even Newer Labour

Labour Party


Here’s the second of my blog reviews. Tom Miller’s blog is no more. Called newerlabour it provided a perspective from the left of the Labour Party frequently looking positively at the work of Compass. I understand that his new job means that he has retired his old blog, but I hope he remains an occasional contributor to Labour List.

Tom actually has two new jobs, because he is also Labour’s Parliamentary candidate in Woking. His new site has a gently rotating set of images, although none of them tell me this is Woking, they could be taken I suspect in many Home Counties commuter towns. My knowledge of Woking is insufficient to know what image does conjure up essence of Woking, but as a major commuting centre a picture of the train station if perhaps a little clichéd would brand the site further. Another possibility would be the football club which Tom links too.

I like Tom’s links. He rightly understands that the first link for any political site should be to Europe, and gives my colleague Peter Skinner MEP top billing! Tom does the full joined up multimedia model offering Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. One particularly impressive achievement is Tom’s mastering of search engines. I’m lucky that there are not many Mary Honeyball’s in the world but there are several Tom Millers, a photographer and a politician to name but two others. Search google and Labour’s Woking site with Tom as candidate is number 3. Excellent work for a site launched only a few weeks ago.

The front page has plenty of meaty content. Some of the others need a little more to be added, and there is the odd typo. Knowing how frequently Tom used to update newerlabour I’m sure it won’t be long before the rest of his site matches the quality that welcomes you on the homepage.



I am excited by the arrival of Labour List onto the blogosphere. I hope the site will be a place where views can be exchanged and a place where debate is sparked. There is already a diverse selection of contributors and I am sure this will only increase as the site gains momentum. I look forward to Labour List’s progression.