This year’s EU-wide Equal Pay Day was marked on 15 November. From this day forward, women symbolically work for free compared to men. In the EU, women on average still earn around 13 percent less than their male colleagues, and in Austria it is even around 19 percent less. The Pay Transparency Directive could provide a remedy. It must now be implemented consistently.
Equal Pay Day is recurring every year. It refers to the differences in income between genders. In 2021, the gender pay gap was 18.8 percent in Austria and 12.7 percent across the EU. This means that the average hourly wage of women was 18.8 and 12.7 percent lower than that of men. Based on this figure, Austria occupies an unattractive top position in the EU. In 2023, the day from which women in Austria would work for free if they were paid the same hourly wage as men fell on 31 October. The date was 15 November at EU level. This means that the EU-wide pay gap is still far too big. Although the principle that men and women should receive the same pay for the same work has been enshrined in the European Treaties since 1957, we are still a long way away from achieving this goal.
At snail's pace towards more equality
Since 2020, Gender Equality Week has been organised annually in the EU Parliament on the initiative of Vice-President Evelyn Regner to draw attention to the still immense inequality between genders. One of the speakers this year was the Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli. She pointed out that at the current rate of progress in the area of equality, it would take another 38 years for women in the EU to have the same pay as their male colleagues. In addition, there are currently 8 million well-qualified women across the EU who want to work but are unable to do so due to care responsibilities. They stay out of the labour market because of a lack of necessary care structures. Another consequence of the Gender Pay Gap is the Pension Gap. Due to their lower earned income, women often have lower pensions and are therefore at risk of poverty in old age.
Structural problems need structural answers
To mark the EU-wide Equal Pay Day, Eurofound organised an event to shed light on the background to the gender pay gap. Barbara Gerstenberger, Head of the Working Life unit at Eurofound, presented the results of a study, in which the most important factors for the gender pay gap were identified. Sector-specific gender distribution and the position of women within these sectors play a major role. As a rule, women in particular are more strongly represented in the low-wage sectors. And even when this is not the case, compared to their male colleagues, women are less likely to be found in management positions. The glass ceiling has therefore still not been broken. In addition, the gender pay gap is bigger in larger companies than it is in smaller ones. However, part of the pay gap cannot be explained objectively. This leads to the conclusion that it must be based on gender discrimination. Maria Walsh, MEP, points out that women also do significantly more unpaid and community work than men. This would also leave them with less time to undertake paid work.
More fairness for working women - there is still a lot to do
There is broad agreement at EU level that the pay gap must be closed. In order to come closer to the goal of "equal pay for equal work", the Pay Transparency Directive was adopted in April 2023. According to this Directive, salaries must be published transparently. This means that all employees have an independent right to information about the average pay of peer groups, which must be provided by the respective companies, broken down by gender. Companies are also obliged to take action if the gender pay gap in the company exceeds five percent. This means that income differences can be tackled directly within the company. A Woman on Boards Directive was also adopted. As a result, listed companies must have at least 40 percent women on their supervisory boards from 2026.
From AK’s point of view, the implementation of the Pay Transparency Directive must be acted upon immediately in order to close the gender pay gap. The social partners must be involved in the implementation. Income reports should be mandatory for companies with 25 or more employees and not only start from 100 employees, as provided for in the Pay Transparency Directive. It is also crucial to provide the necessary infrastructure, which must include a comprehensive range of childcare facilities. Overall, a great deal of effort will be required to create a world of work that offers equal opportunities for women and men.
Eurofund: European Jobs Monitor 2021: Gender gaps and the employment structure
Eurostat: Gender pay gap in unadjusted form
AK EUROPA: Equal pay for equal work – pay transparency negotiations can begin
AK EUROPA: Women in the EU are doing 51 days unpaid work on average
AK EUROPA: The Pay Transparency Directive
EU Commission: Equal Pay Day
Equal Pay Day Europe Website
Equal Pay Day Austria Website (German only)
AK Wien: Close the income gap now! (German only)
A&W Blog: Gender Pay Gap: Explained is not just (German only)