The European Equal Pay Day took place on 3 November; from a statistical point of view, from this day, women in the EU are working without payment. The average hourly wage of women is 16.3 % lower than that of their male colleagues. In general, the recently published Gender Equality Index for 2017 shows that hardly any noticeable progress has been made towards more gender equality in the EU.


Even the Treaty of Rome on Establishing the European Economic Community more than sixty years ago, stipulated “equal pay for equal work” as a core principle of the Common Europe. Unfortunately, reality did not get anywhere near this fundamental principle. At an average of 16.3 %, the Gender Pay Gap, the pay gap between men and women for the same work, in the EU remains constantly high.


The reasons for this are structural: in spite of a high work load, sectors, which are dominated by women, are paid less; women are less frequently represented in leading positions and due to the still unequally distributed household and care work, and the high share of part time work resulting from this, their hourly wage is also lower. The differences between the Member States are considerable: at 5.5 %, Italy has the lowest pay gap between men and women; at 26.9 %, Estonia has the highest. For years, Austria finds itself among the inglorious front-runners. At 21.7 %, the Austrian Gender Pay Gap lies significantly above EU average. That means that in Austria, women, from a statistical point of view, have been working for free since 11 October already. In this context, the AK supports concrete measures such as more income transparency to finally put an end to women being worse off in the labour market.


Mid October, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), also presented the Gender Equality Index. Rather tellingly, it is called “Progress at a snail's pace”. The Index shows that progress towards more gender equality in all areas of life is painfully slow, some areas even showed regresses.


Over the past ten years, major progress has been made in respect of women participating in political and economic decision-making processes. This shows that public pressure and appropriate statutory regulations are having an effect. In spite of this, women are still underrepresented in political and economic decision-making positions. In spite of the progress made in recent years, inequality has not increased in any area of life. Only 22 % of the board members of large European companies are women and only in seven Member States, women's share in Parliaments is roughly balanced at a rate of at least 40 %. Unfortunately, an EU Directive on gender quotas in leading positions is currently being blocked because of the resistance of some Member States in the Council of the EU.


The Index also indicates that 12 countries have shown regresses regarding the equal distribution of household work between men and women. Only every third man in the EU participates in daily household work; in contrast, at 79 % this affects the majority of women. Men have more time for sport, cultural and leisure activities. Women with migration background are particularly affected by this unequal treatment. This unequal distribution of household and care work has a massive, negative influence on women’s ability to work and their economic independence. Apart from that, these problems have a long-term effect: on average, women’s pensions are 40 % lower than those of their male counterparts. In Austria, the average pension in 2016 for men was € 1.468; women in contrast only received € 904. A Report commissioned by the European Parliament shows that the Gender Pay Gap will remain also for future generations and that the situation might even deteriorate due to the many pension reforms, if not countermeasures are taken at last.


A large part of this difference is the result of the unequal distribution of care duties and household work. In spring 2017, the European Commission presented a proposal on improving the work-life balance for parents and carers, which shall determine some new or higher EU minimum standards for parental, paternity and care leave. An EU-wide claim to paternity leave of at least ten working days and four months parental leave for each parent, which cannot be transferred to the other parent, has been planned. Hence, following the Scandinavian example, fathers shall be more involved in childcare. Apart from that, the Directive proposal provides for a claim of five days care leave per year and for the right to more flexible working hours for parents of children up to twelve years.


From the point of view of the AK, such initiatives are welcome and heading in the right direction. However, a lot of effort has to be made to achieve the long overdue equality of men and women, both at European level and in the Member States. The work carried out by women is not worth less, it is only not paid as well as the work done by men. It is high time to put an end to this in the 21st century!


Further information: 

AK EUROPE: International Women’s Day on March 8 – and what happens the following 364 days?

AK Position Paper: Work-life balance for parents and carers

AK Wien: Women.Management.Report.2017

EU Fact Sheet: Gender Pay Gap in the EU

EU-Fact Sheet: Gender Pay Gap in Austria

blog.arbeit-wirtschaft: Gender Pay Gap Infographic

blog.arbeit-wirtschaft: Evaluating and distributing work differently