International Women's Day: gender pay gap remains at 16%

The Momentum UK Team 07 March 2014

Women in Europe still work 59 days a year “for free”, according to this year’s Equal Pay Day report by the European Commission.

The gender pay gap is the difference between men and women’s hourly earnings across the entire economy. According to the latest figures from the European Commission, it has remained stagnant in recent years and still stands at 16.4%. This equates to 59 unpaid days of work for women each year.

This means that Equal Pay Day this year fell on the 28th February, for the second year in a row. Equal Pay Day is the date at which, when the pay gap is accounted for, women in Europe effectively start getting paid for their work as compared to men.

These latest figures show stagnation after a slight downward trend in recent years; the figure has been around 17% or higher in previous years. In some countries, such as Hungary, Portugal, Estonia, Bulgaria, Ireland and Spain, the pay gap has been widening.

It is thought that several factors have contributed to the general downward trend in the gender pay gap across Europe. These include an increasing share of higher educated female workers, but also the fact that the recent economic downturn disproportionately affected some male-dominated sectors, such as construction and engineering. This means that the change isn’t solely due to improving pay and working conditions for women.

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, commented on the findings:

“The pay gap has only narrowed marginally in recent years. To make things worse, the very slight decreasing trend for the past years is largely a result of the economic crisis, which has seen men's earnings decrease, rather than women's earnings increase,"

She added:

“Equal pay for equal work is a founding principle of the EU, but sadly is still not yet a reality for women in Europe. Following years of inaction, it is time for a change. The European Commission is currently working on an initiative to trigger change, so that in the near future we will no longer need an Equal Pay day.”