The gender pay gap in the EU, the average difference between women and men’s hourly earnings across the entire economy, has barely moved in recent years and still stands at around 16%, compared to 16.4% the year before, according to the European Commission. However, the gap in Cyprus shrank noticeably and, along with Greece, recorded a better performance than the average of the EU.
The Commission published the assessment on the occasion of the European Equal Pay Day on Friday, February 28, marking the date in the new calendar year from which women really begin to be paid for their work as compared to men. In effect it means that women work 59 days "for free" until they match the amount earned by men.
The gender pay gap shows stagnation after a slight downward trend in recent years, with the figure around 17% or higher in previous years. A continuous decreasing trend can be found in Denmark, the Czech Republic, Austria, the Netherlands and Cyprus, where other countries (Poland, Lithuania) have reversed their decreasing trend in 2012. In some countries like Hungary, Portugal, Estonia, Bulgaria, Ireland and Spain, the gender pay gap has increased in recent years.
In Cyprus, in 2008 the gap was in favour of men by 19.5% and shrank to 16.2%, recording a drop of 3.3 percentage points, during the period 2008-2012.
The declining trend in the pay gap can be explained by several factors, such as a rising share of higher educated female workers or the greater impact of the economic downturn on some male-dominated sectors, such as construction or engineering. The change is therefore not solely due to improvements in pay and working conditions for women.
A Commission report from December 2013 on the implementation of EU rules on equal treatment for women and men in employment found that equal pay is hindered by a number of factors. These include a lack of transparency in pay systems, a lack of legal clarity in the definition of work of equal value, and procedural obstacles. Such obstacles include the lack of information of workers necessary to bring a successful equal pay claim or including information about the pay levels for categories of employees. Increased wage transparency could improve the situation of individual victims of pay discrimination who would be able to compare themselves more easily to workers of the other sex.
"European Equal Pay Day reminds us of the unequal pay conditions women still face in the labour market. 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", said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner.
She added that "equal pay for equal work is a founding principle of the EU, but sadly is still not yet a reality for women in Europe".
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