Gender pay equity, a pending task
In the European Union, women earn on average 13% less than men. And the pay gap in Catalonia is even wider, reaching 20%. Latvia and Estonia are the only EU states with a higher pay gap. Fortunately, the problem could be reduced thanks to the new pay transparency rules.
According to the latest data from Idescat, women in Catalonia earn 20% less than men. While the average gross annual salary for men was over 30,000 euros in 2020, the average gross annual salary for women was less than 24,100 euros. This is significantly worse than in the European Union, where women earn on average 13% less than men per hour worked. In fact, Latvia and Estonia are the only EU states with a wider pay gap than Catalonia.
The principle of equal pay is enshrined in article 157 of the founding text of the European Union. However, the gender pay gap has barely decreased in a decade, from 15.8% in 2010 to 13% in 2020. This is why 22 February marks European Equal Pay Day, which aims to put the spotlight on the problem so that EU members take action.
It should be borne in mind that there are a number of inequalities underlying the pay gap. It is not only that women earn less than men when doing the same job. In addition, women are over-represented in relatively low-paid sectors such as care and education, while the so-called glass ceiling leads to the under-representation of women in managerial positions.
Transparency against inequality
Fortunately, the Czech presidency and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on pay transparency rules in December. This will empower women to apply the principle of equal pay for equal work through a set of binding measures on pay transparency.
To avoid discrimination, companies will have to ensure that their employees have access to the criteria for determining pay and possible pay increases. Employees and their representatives also have the right to request and receive information on their individual pay levels and on the average pay levels of employees performing the same work or work of equal value, broken down by gender.
Companies with more than 100 employees will also have to report on the pay gap between male and female workers. Where there is an unjustified difference in the average wage level between men and women of at least 5%, the employer must carry out an assessment including measures to correct the unjustified pay gap.
Penalties for violators
Employees whose employer has not respected the principle of equal pay are entitled to claim compensation. The courts may order the company to put an end to the infringement and take corrective measures. Both equality bodies and workers’ representatives will be able to act on behalf of one or more employees to enforce the principle of equal pay.
Hopefully, these are the first steps towards real equality between men and women in terms of pay and job opportunities. All that remains is for the EU member states to bring their legislation into line with the new directive. They have three years to do so.
It is curious that Luxembourg, the country with the highest average wage in the EU at more than 70,000 euros per year, is also the country with the smallest gender pay gap: women earn only 0.7% less than men, according to Eurostat.
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