Mid November 2017, the European Commission presented its Gender Pay Gap Action Plan. At 16.3 %, the pay gap between men and women in der EU remains constantly high and working women are still confronted with a glass ceiling. The AK therefore welcomes the measures of the Action Plan, which are aimed at women’s equality in the labour market. These must now be put into action!


Women in the labour market are still disadvantaged in respect of pay, career options and the social evaluation of their work. Regarding the gender pay gap, Austria lies significantly above the EU average of 16.3 % and at 21.7 %, having a place in the inglorious leading group. Hence, the AK welcomes the Action Plan of the European Commission to combat the gender pay gap. Two action focal points are of interest for employees: more pay transparency and breaking the glass ceiling for working women. From the AK's point of view, these two points should be given priority. Regarding these areas, the EU has the legislative competence to take effective measures and sanctions in case of non-compliance, which would come into direct effect in the Member States.


More pay transparency could make a significant contribution to help women to receive equal pay for equal work. As a Eurobarometer survey shows, employees perceive the gender pay gaps strangely differently: Whilst 69 % believe that women are paid less for the same work, only 33 % think that this is happening in the company they work for.


Hence, back in 2014 already, the Commission adopted a recommendation for more pay transparency, one of the greatest obstacles for equal pay for equal work. This contains important measures, such as the right of employees to information on wage and salary levels, regular reporting of employers on wages and salaries (broken down by employee groups or positions) and the specification of the term of equal work. An evaluation of this non-binding recommendation has shown that national measures are not sufficient. A third of the Member States did not implement any of the proposed initiatives at all; many other countries only did this inadequately.


Another important focal point of the Action Plan is breaking the glass ceiling for working women. There is still a major discrepancy in Europa between the share of employed and well-educated women compared to the female representation in leading positions. Even though in Austria 47 % of jobs are filled by women, the share of women being board members of listed companies is only 4 %. Hence, a Draft Directive from 2012 provides that companies have to ensure that by 2020 at least 40 % of the non-executive directors (and board members respectively) have to belong to the underrepresented gender and that selection processes for board members have to be carried out in accordance with clear, gender neutral criteria. The European Parliament approved of this Draft Directive as early as 2013; however, it finally failed because of the resistance of the Member States in the Council of the EU. The AK welcomes that the Commission is now taking up this initiative in its Action Plan again. The Commission should now work towards the rapid approval of this Draft Directive in the Council.


From the AK’s point of view, the EU only then has a future when social justice prevails in Europe and gender equality has been actually achieved. More pay transparency and breaking the glass ceiling could achieve relevant and noticeable progress in gender equality. The AK therefore supports the proposed measures. The ball is now in the corner of the Commission to ensure that the fine words in its Action Plan are followed by deeds!



Further information:

AK Position Paper: EU Action Plan EU 2017-2019: Tackling the Gender Pay Gap

AK-Europa: EU Gender Pay Gap Action Plan presented

AK EUROPA: Equal Pay Day 2017: Equal Pay for Equal Work!

Gender Pay Gap infographics

European Commission: Evaluation Report of the 2014 Pay Transparency Recommendation