The European Unequal Pay Day is a symbolic day to raise awareness on the fact that female workers in Europe still earn on average 14.1% less than men. The day marks the date from which women effectively start working for free until the end of the year. On national level, this day can fall earlier or later in the year, depending on the respective gender pay gap in each Member State.
To mark this day, PES Women and its Flemish member organisation ZIJkant have developed a public campaign featuring a promotional video and visuals by the famous Belgian photographer Jef Boes. It shows real young families in their houses, coping with the COVID-19 situation, with the message “share tasks equally at home, for equal opportunities at work”. Because one of the main causes of the gender pay gap is the unequal share of household work and care responsibilities undertaken by women. It negatively impacts women’s careers, and the situation has only worsened during the pandemic. By raising awareness of this problem and encouraging a fairer sharing of responsibilities, we can begin to close the gender pay gap.
At this online launch event, our experts will discuss how to tackle the gender pay gap by focusing on ‘what you can do?’ as well as on ‘what the EU can do?’. The debate will involve focusing on what individual families and feminist allies can do concretely, such as speaking up and sharing best practices, combat stereotypes in the home and improve sharing of tasks. What can employers and companies do, but also institutions through legislative and structural changes at the European and national level, such as implementing the work-life balance & pay transparency directives, improve investment in the care economy, support projects to combat gender stereotypes etc.?
All teleworking, ‘right to disconnect’ and other post-pandemic labour policies must take the gendered division of care work into account and evaluate how flexible working arrangements affect women’s employment and the gender pay gap.
Implement the provisions on equal pay of the European Gender Equality Strategy and the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Immediate and full implementation of the EU Work-Life Balance Directive to encourage more men to take up unpaid care responsibilities in the home. All Member States must transpose the minimum standards of the Directive into national legislation as part of their national recovery plans. States are encouraged to go beyond the Directive and extend the scope of well-paid parental leave, including the rights of self-employed and adoptive parents. The Commission should consider taking additional measures to address different care-giving needs throughout the life cycle and evaluate the gendered impact of COVID-19 on work-life balance.
New and ambitious EU legislation to improve working conditions will benefit everyone, and, if gender mainstreamed, can address particular challenges for women workers, such as the double burden of work and unpaid care responsibilities which negatively affects women’s mental health. Such legislation could include directives for decent working conditions and mental wellbeing in the workplace, legislation on the right to disconnect, and EU measures to evaluate and address the impact of teleworking (and the lack of teleworking in some occupations) during the pandemic on women’s careers, mental and physical health. The right to disconnect is of particular importance to women, who often face bigger work-life balance demands than men, especially during the pandemic.
Strong collective bargaining and social dialogues to ensure collective rather than individual solutions to achieve equal pay.
Following up and implementing the EU Pay Transparency Initiative with binding measures, effective monitoring and sanctions, as well as ambitious national targets for closing the gender pay and pension gaps are needed without delay. It should also include standardised rules for data collection and guidelines for determining what counts as ‘work of equal value’. Closing gender pay and pension gaps should be given top priority in the European Semester procedure and national recovery plans. An updated EU Gender Pay Gap Action Plan is recommended.
Since women make up 58% of European minimum wage workers, decent minimum wages are essential to combat in-work poverty and improve women’s economic independence. A European framework for decent minimum wages should be adopted to prevent in-work poverty, with the aim of achieving gradual upward convergence of national minimum wages, either by law or collective bargaining in line with existing national systems.
Targeted measures at EU and national level to combat horizontal labour market segregation. The fact that more women than men tend to work in low-paid sectors is a major factor behind the gender pay gap. Improving pay and working conditions in women-dominated sectors, ensuring access to upskilling and life-long learning, while combatting stereotypes to encourage more men to work in care, education, hospitality etc. and more women to work in in STEM, should be a priority.
A Care Deal for Europe, including increased investments in raising wages for care workers and improving access to affordable and quality healthcare, child care and long-term care.
Gender mainstreamed national recovery and resilience plans with adequate investments in female-dominated sectors to protect women’s jobs and economic independence during and after the pandemic.
Investment in projects which challenge gender stereotypes in all areas of public and private life, with a special focus on combatting gender-based violence, toxic masculinity and sexism must be adequately funded.
The EU should explore and define a new model for European companies, which implements genuine democracy in the management of an enterprise. Rules should imply due diligence, the respect, promotion and enforcement of human rights, gender equality and anti-discrimination infrastructures, and responsible business conduct should be introduced on the EU level, possibly with a dedicated directive.
Foster quotas to promote female leadership in the private and public sectors. Unblock the EU Women on Boards Directive and extend its scope to the executive level. Alternative proposals, such as rewards for gender-balanced companies, should be put forward, should the Directive remain blocked in the Council.
Combatting gender stereotypes, horizontal and vertical labour market segregation is a key step towards closing the gender pay gap. Investment in educational and life-long learning programmes, especially to encourage more women to work in ICT and STEM, is needed to fully include women in the digital and green transitions, combat stereotypes and horizontal labour market segregation.