Sunday

16th May 2021

EU commission to finally combat gender pay gap

  • Commission vice-president Vera Jourova (l) and equality commissioner Helena Dalli announcing the new strategy for the next five years (Photo: European Commission)

The EU Commission aims to combat gender pay gap by asking countries to implement pay transparency measures in a strategy rolled out on Thursday (5 March).

The commission is planning to put forward "binding measures on pay transparency" later this year, after a consultation with employers, employees, and EU member states.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Even though more women graduate from universities, they earn on average 16 percent less than men do and only eight percent of CEOs of the EU's largest companies are women, the commission pointed out in its gender strategy.

Women also receive 30 percent less pension then men, while 75 percent of unpaid care and domestic work is done by women.

"You cannot compare salaries unless you know what people are getting paid," equality commissioner Helena Dalli said, saying transparency is necessary to be able to move on to close the gender pay gap.

Thirteen EU countries have no pay transparency measures. Others have different tools, for instance in Germany there is the right to information in companies with at least 200 workers.

The commission will also give a new push to a legislation put forward first in 2012 aimed to bring more women to corporate boards to at least 40 percent.

The legislation has since been stuck because of opposition of some member states.

"Nothing has changed," commission vice-president Vera Jourova quipped when asked about the progress since then, emphasising the need for a renewed push.

"We have to use quotas because otherwise we have to wait another 100 years for things to change by themselves," Dalli said.

100-year wait

The EU executive also wants to tackle violence against women by getting all EU member states to ratify the 2014 Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating gender-based violence.

One-in-three women in Europe was subject to physical and, or sexual violence, and 22 percent of women in the EU have experienced violence by an intimate partner. 55 percent of women in the EU have been sexually harassed.

So far Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania, which is home of the EU's agency for gender equality, have not ratified the convention.

Hungary's justice minister Judit Varga last year described the Istanbul convention as a "political tantrum", and government officials speak of gender as an ideology.

Dalli admitted to a group of journalists on Wednesday that it will be "very, very difficult" to convince countries like Hungary to ratify the convention.

If it does not succeed, the commission plans to propose in 2021 measures to achieve the same objectives as the convention.

"Violence is not normal and not tolerable, violence against women, it's a crime," said Jourova.

"Do not be scared to do and report the violence," she added in a message to victims, saying "only 25 percent of rape and brutal violence" are reported.

"Nobody can be free under the threat of violence," Dalli said.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), an EU agency, found that despite 21 countries having ratified the convention, some of them are not fulfilling the minimum levels of support, such as national hotlines.

"Hope these countries look at the text and that they realise the only goal is to combat violence against women and domestic violence," Carlien Scheele, director of EIGE told EUobserver, adding that "opposition to the convention has become more vocal".

According to a study cited by EIGE almost half of women parliamentarians in Europe had received death threats, or threats of beating or rape.

Cyber violence can also discourage women from speaking out: around four in 10 journalists have reported self-censorship following online abuse, according to Scheele.

Stereotypes and AI algorithm

The commission also intends to combat stereotypes that feed into the gender inequality.

Jourova said she is worried about potential regress in equality, as for instance AI can amplify existing stereotypes.

The commission wants to boost the number of women working in information and communications technology which is now at 17 percent.

But the gender aspect should become an integral part of policy-making in the EU, argued Scheele to EUobserver, for instance in the Green Deal, as the ones most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change tend to be women.

MEPs mark Violence Against Women day with urgent call

According to liberal MEP Anna Júlia Donáth, "violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations existing today and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, and shame surrounding it."

Dalli promises to unblock women on boards directive

Malta's nominee for EU commissioner for the new equality portfolio, Helena Dalli, promised on Wednesday (2 October) an ambitious programme to fight all types of discrimination, stereotypes, and gender-related issues across Europe.

Exclusive

Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs

Wegate.eu, which received €1.2m in EU money since its launch almost two years ago, has less than a thousand registered users - from a possible target audience of at least 10 million.

Analysis

First 100 days: Digital and Green Deal policies hit by crises

The first 100 days of Ursula von der Leyen's commission were supposed to be about the digital and environmental transitions. However, that agenda has been hit by first the coronavirus, and now the Greek border situation.

Women hit hardest by corona economic crisis

While women are in the frontline on fighting the pandemic, they are also exposed more to the economic crisis that will follow. The pay gap could also grow. More security for flexible jobs, and investment in care work, could help.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us