Gender Inequality


Women earn in the EU an average of 16.4% less than men, according to the latest figures published by the European Commission.

There has barely been any change in recent years in the gender pay gap – the average difference in gross hourly earnings between women and men across the economy as a whole.


Check out this report commissioned by unions into the Gender Pay Gap in Europe’s Public Services



The rate ranges from around 2% in Poland to more than 27% in Estonia.

Member States where the gender pay gap is widening include Bulgaria, France, Latvia, Hungary, Portugal and Romania.

The number of cases of direct pay discrimination – differences in pay between men and women doing exactly the same job – has fallen, thanks to EU and national legislation on equal pay, but the pay gap goes far beyond this, reflecting ongoing inequality in the overall job market.

Gender Pay Gap in Europe (2009)

Did you know? 8% of French women work part-time involuntarily, compared to just 2.8% of French men

Discrimination at Work

The data for 1995-2004 in the European Union (EU) confirm that women’s participation in the labour force, currently reaching 62%, and in paid employment, at 47.1%, has continued to rise significantly. More broadly speaking, this indicates a narrowing of the gender gap in labour force participation for women.

A key measure of women’s improvement in employment is the availability of good-quality jobs for women in legislative, senior official or managerial (LSOM) positions. Higher participation rates for women in LSOM jobs indicate a reduction of discriminatory barriers. Although women still represent a distinct minority in such positions throughout the world, holding only 28% of these senior jobs, there has been considerable progress. In the EU, women have increased their share of high-status positions over the past decade by 3.1% to current level of 30.6%.

Given these advances, however, women in Europe still earn less than men. Throughout the EU, the difference in average gross hourly earnings between women and men has remained high at 15%. According to the European Commission, the difference in earnings levels between men and women results from “non-respect of equal pay legislation and from a num- ber of structural inequalities”.

Gender discrimination is also visible in other aspects of employment. In the United Kingdom, for example, a recent report by the Equal Opportunities Commission states that 30,000 women each year lose their jobs because of their pregnancy, and only 3% of those who expe- rience a problem lodge a claim at an employment tribunal.


Best Place to be A Woman in Europe

Best place to be a woman: Iceland

Iceland has the greatest equality between men and women, taking into account politics, education, employment and health indicators.

Best place to be a mother: Norway

Norway is the world’s best place to be a mother, with low risks of maternal mortality – one in 7,600 – and skilled help at nearly all births.

Best place to be a woman in the arts: Sweden

The Swedish Arts Council has launched initiatives to improve gender equality in the arts. The Swedish Film Institute mandates that film grants be distributed evenly between men and women and there are quotas for women in film production.

Best place to give birth: Greece

Greece is the world’s safest place to give birth, with a one in 31,800 risk of dying in childbirth.

Best place for the right to choose: Sweden

Sweden permits women to have abortions without restrictions for the first 18 weeks of pregnancy and there are no mandatory consent requirements.

Best place to earn money: Luxembourg

Luxembourg shares the top spot (with Norway) for estimated earned income. When income is capped at $40,000, women and men are as likely to earn the same amount.

Best place to be a lady of leisure: Denmark

Women in Denmark have more time for leisure, spending only 57 more minutes each day on unpaid work than men, the lowest in the OECD.


See how European countries fare according to the gender gap in education, the economy and political empowerment: 2012 gender inequality index 

Women in parliament

23% across the Europe (EU)

43 % European parliament

45% Sweden

43% Finland

41% Netherlands

40% Iceland, Norway, Denmark

38% Belgium

36%  Spain

33% Germany

32% Slovenia

29% Portugal, Switzerland

28%  Austria

25%  Luxembourg

24%  Croatia

22% UK, Czech Republic, Serbia, Italy

21% Bulgaria

20% Estonia

19% France, Germany

16% Slovakia

15% Republic of Ireland

Women and the crisis

See early research on the impact with this Social Watch report:

See a more recent examination  Recession and poverty: Has economic crisis hit women harder? | New Europe (September 2012)


Women in Germany earn significantly less than their male colleagues, a situation that has changed little over the years. The wage discrimination can lead to a “vicious circle of poverty.” German women working in full-time jobs earn roughly 22 percent less than men in comparable positions, according to a recent study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The wage inequality has especially hit women who are single parents working low-wage jobs. Even in these jobs, women earn less than men and – even with a full-time job – they are unable to earn their livelihood. Children, in particular, are hit hard by this inequality. More


Here’s a few figures just published by trade union central Comisiones Obreras that show the huge gender gap that still needs to close

 Women at Work

  •  Women comprise 96% of the total population that don’t seek work for the principal reason of caring for children, adults, ill, immobile or elderly
  • The main reason (40%) for not working are ‘domestic responsibilities’ compared to being a  ‘pensioner or early retirement’ for men (60%)
  •  Employment rate among women is 11.6 percentage points lower than for men
  • Unemployment affected young women in particular: 7 out 10 female 16-19 year olds are jobless and four out of 10 for those of ages 20-24
  • 51% of Spain’s jobless are women but only 39% of these women received contribution-based unemployment benefits
  •  Women account for 76% of part-time work, but the main reason (53%) is the inability to find a full-time position, followed by care of dependents (15%) with only 10% citing part-time work as a genuine preference
  •  In the public sector 72% of women have permanent contracts compared to 82% of men



A few facts about women in France today 

  • Women’s pensions are 67% of those of a man on average
  • Retirement pensions for women are Euros 877 a month, which is below the poverty line
  • The right wing administration of Sarkozy’s UMP party has cut public services that are essential to women, for example, in 1975 there were 1379 maternity units in France; now there are 540, a cut of 60% while the French population has increased by 18%.
  •  9.7% of women are unemployed compared to 9.2% of men
  • 83% of part time jobs are held by women
  • 11% of women are on short term contracts as opposed to 6.5% of men
  • Women’s wages are 27% lower than men: that’s as if from 3pm women work for free while men are paid!

Source: Front de Gauche


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