9th Aug 2022

European women do not enjoy the fruits of their labour

Women in the EU work more hours, live healthier and longer, and have a higher education level than men, yet they still earn less, a fresh study has revealed.

Two days ahead of International Women's Day, the EU statistics office, Eurostat, has released the latest findings on the gender gap in member states, with figures suggesting that it will be some time before the gap is closed.

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  • Women in Europe work harder but earn less (Photo: European Commission)

According to the study, women in the EU, who account for a majority of university-level students in almost all member states, still earn 15 percent less than men once graduated.

"These statistics show that women achieve overall a better educational level than men, but that this isn't reflected in the labour market,'' a commission spokesperson said on Monday (6 March).

When it comes to salaries, the biggest differences in pay are found in Cyprus, Estonia and Slovakia with about a 25 percent difference, and the narrowest gaps were found in Malta, Portugal and Belgium, at around 5 percent.

In all EU member states, except Sweden, women also have longer working days than men, including paid employment, studies and domestic work.

Of all member states, only Ireland, Sweden, Latvia and the UK have higher unemployment among men than women.

Meanwhile, in terms of life expectancy, women in the EU live for an average 81.2 years, compared with 75.1 for men.

Looking at other aspects of everyday life, the study revealed that Italian and Spanish men spend the least amount of time doing domestic work clocking in an average of one hour and 36 minutes a day. At the other end of scale are Estonian, Slovenian and Hungarian men who chalk up around two hours and 40 minutes a day.

Road map ahead

Late week, EU social affairs commissioner Vladimir Spidla presented a new six-point "roadmap" for equality, targeting work-life balance, gender-based violence and unjust pay differences between the sexes.

"It's not acceptable that half of the EU's population still gets a worse deal than the other half," he added.

He said that the measures were not taken only for the sake of egalitarian ideals, but also to boost growth across the union.

"Gender equality isn't just a good idea – it liberates people's potential and plays a key role in making the EU more competitive."

Meanwhile, individual member states are promoting gender equality measures such as introducing minimum levels of female politicians on election lists, or the right to paternity leave for fathers.

Spain's socialist government last week announced that the gender perspective will be introduced at all high-level studies, and that fathers will have ten days of paid paternity leave.

The proposed law will also oblige companies with more than 250 workers to introduce "equality plans" aimed at eliminating discrimination against women in pay, promotion and benefits.

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