Group of young people in computing class

Working women earn on average 13% less than men for doing the same job. Pay secrecy is helping mask deeper inequalities, while shocks to our economy threaten fragile gender equality gains.

Lower wages in turn lead to less social protection, fewer pension entitlements and other social benefits.

And women continue to pay the price for this well into retirement, with pensions 37% lower than men’s.

If we fail to respond to challenges in the labour market, including women tending to work fewer hours and in more precarious employment, then Europe faces an even wider pensions gap within a generation.

The EU is taking action by moving towards a Pay Transparency Directive.

This recognises that today’s gender pay gap reflects a sum of intersecting inequalities.

Our youth policy brief presented a clear-cut picture – young women faced greater unemployment than men since the outbreak of Covid-19. For young women of a migrant background, they faced even higher risks of unemployment.” says EIGE Director, Carlien Scheele.

In the EU, the unemployment rate for women between the ages of 15-29 rose from 11% in 2019 to 12% in 2021. Women of a migrant background in the same age group were harder hit – unemployment increased from 17 % in 2019 to 20 % in 2021.

Looking at the gender pay gap in monthly earnings for women and men between 16-29 years-old and 30-49 years old, we see a stark contrast. Because the gap increases almost fourfold between these ages.

And then when care enters the picture, the gender pay gap is aggravated. Due to unshared unpaid care responsibilities, the highest gender pay gap is found among couples with children under the age of seven – sitting at 48%.

Additionally, the gender pay gap also reaches 48% by the time women and men are 65 and over.

As a consequence, this carries on into pension years, where the gender pension gap sits at 29% among women and men over the age of 65.

Research by EIGE sees these patterns mirrored across all EU Member States. From the motherhood penalty - the unfair stereotype that women with children are less productive - to the pay gap widening with age, the statistics speak for themselves.

  • Women are concentrated in lower-level and lower-paid jobs;
  • They work more hours, accounting combined paid and unpaid work;
  • They take longer career breaks often due to care responsibilities;
  • Women are also more likely to choose part-time work to reconcile work and care responsibilities.

EIGE is calling on all Member States to make a concerted effort to improve equality in the workplace.

The new EU Directive on pay transparency promises to “make equal pay for equal work a reality”, says Samira Rafaela of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee.

‘‘We’re a step closer to getting rid of the gender pay gap in Europe. We do not have any time to waste,” explains the Dutch MEP.

“Women deserve to be treated and to be paid equally. This is in the best interest of our economy, our businesses and our citizens.”

Her Danish colleague Kira Marie Peter-Hansen adds: “We’re taking an important step towards gender equality, and shining a light on the problem of unequal pay.”

EIGE’s work on gender equality seeks to amplify The EU’s work on pay transparency in our #3StepsForward campaign.

Our #3StepsForward towards an economy that works for women and men are:

  1. Reject precarious work and guarantee a decent minimum wage;
  2. Equally support young women and men to achieve their career potential;
  3. Favour pay transparency and other measures to close the gender pay gap.