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31st Oct 2020

French women 'must wait 1,000 years' for equal pay

  • 'Self-regulation cannot bring the desired and sustainable change rapidly,' EU commissioner Helena Dalli said last month on equal pay (Photo: James Shields)

Women in France may have to wait over 1,000 years before the gender pay-gap is fully eliminated on current trends, according to a new study.

The research by the Brussels-based European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), published on Monday (5 October) found that the French gap had narrowed by only 0.1 percent since 2010.

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  • The European Commission found more women have university degrees than men - yet on average earn 16 percent less than men. And only 8 percent of CEOs of the EU's largest companies are women (Photo: © European Union 2017 - European Parliament)

President Emmanuel Macron made gender equality one of his core policy objectives for his five-year mandate.

Although the number of French women MPs has since doubled, the 1,000 year gender pay-gap result is likely to be an embarrassment for his government.

But France is not the only unequal country cited in the study.

Women in Germany and the Czech Republic will have to wait 100 years, while those in Scandinavian countries will match mens' pay in around 40 years.

Romania, meanwhile, is set to be the first EU state to meet the equal pay objective, in 2022.

"But that's only because of unacceptably low wages for both women and men," pointed out an ETUC press officer, on Twitter.

Gender pay gaps are expected to end in 2027 in Luxembourg, followed by Belgium (2028) and Hungary (2031).

Meanwhile, at least nine other EU states are expected to take half a century.

Earlier this year, the European Commission pointed out that more women have university degrees than men, yet on average earn 16 percent less than men. And only 8 percent of CEOs of the EU's largest companies are women.

"Women belong in all places where decisions are being made," Juliane Seifert from Germany's federal ministry for family affairs, told MEPs last month.

She pointed out that women are too often excluded from decision-making and from boards when it comes to the labour market.

"We know that the number of women on boards in Europe is around 25 percent," she said.

The study casts a long shadow over stated efforts by politicians and policy-makers to close the gender pay-gap.

For instance, the European Commission's proposal in 2012 to increase the number of women on corporate boards did not include binding quotas. Eight years later and the package remains blocked in the Council, representing member states.

"Big business likes to pretend that we're making good progress in reducing the gender pay-gap through voluntary measures," said ETUC deputy general secretary Esther Lynch, in a statement.

"But women would be waiting over 100 years for equal pay in Europe if change continues at its current pace," she added.

The European Commission was set to unveil a proposal on equal pay in November, which has since been delayed until mid-December.

Also known as the Directive on Pay Transparency, it was among the promises made by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to have published within 100 days of her mandate.

Although the pandemic caused by Covid-19 may have factored into that delay, the ETUC noted Von der Leyen had made no mention of the proposal in her state of the union speech last month.

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