21st Sep 2023

Women hardest hit by energy price hike

  • The gender pay gap has only narrowed by 2.8 percentage points over the past decade in the EU, according to the EU Commission (Photo: Rawpixel)
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Women are hit harder by the energy crisis than men, due to their lower average income, a survey on the cost-of-living crisis by Eurofound said.

The figures reflect the impact of the 13 percent average European gender pay gap, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said on the EU's Equal Pay Day on Tuesday (15 November).

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The research, done by the EU agency on improving the living and working conditions in Europe, and published last month, said that women are at a greater risk of energy poverty than men.

"Just as women were overrepresented on the frontline of the Covid crisis, now women are being hit hardest by the cost of living crisis because of the gender pay gap," ETUC deputy secretary general Esther Lynch said Tuesday.

Single mothers and single women are more likely to have problems paying their utility bills than any other group, according to the survey.

The research found that 44 percent of single mothers and 31 percent of single women anticipate difficulties affording energy costs over the next three months, compared to 26 percent of single men.

Single women and couples with children anticipate difficulty paying the energy bills to the same extent, with 30 and 31 percent respectively.

The cost-of-living crisis also makes it harder for women to flee abuse and domestic violence, because they might be financially tied to an abusive partner and thus less likely to be able to live on a single income.

"Women are more likely to be in low paid work because of the undervaluing of work done predominantly by women and more likely to be in part-time work because they overwhelmingly carry the burden of caring responsibilities," Lynch added.

"We're talking about almost half of single mothers who won't be able to afford to keep themselves or their children warm this winter," she said of women who are at risk of serious poverty.

ETUC is arguing for pay rises, emergency fuel payments and energy price caps to help struggling women.

Working for free

From Tuesday until the end of the year, women in general in the EU will "work for free", compared to their male counterparts, because of the 13 percent pay gap, according to the EU Commission's data.

The pay gap has only narrowed by 2.8 percentage points over the past decade in the EU.

In 11 member states the gender pay gap is larger than the EU average, most notably in Latvia and Estonia, where the difference in pay is over 20 percent.

Luxembourg has the lowest difference in pay, with women paid 0.7 percent less than their male colleagues for equal work.

Romania and Slovenia come next with differences of 2.4 percent and 3.1 percent respectively, according to data from the commission.

Making matters worse, women in the EU aged over 65 receive pensions that are on average 29 percent lower than those of men, according to data from 2019 by Eurostat.

The EU Commission has in recent years put forward proposals that aim to close the gap, but the speed of legislation has been sluggish.

In June this year, the European Parliament and member states agreed to improve gender balance on corporate boards by requiring at least 40 percent of women in non-executive boards of listed companies or 33 percent among all directors.

The commission's 2021 pay transparency proposal to ensure that women and men in the EU get equal pay for equal work by making salaries transparent, is still being negotiated by EU governments and the parliament.

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