Mind the gender pay gap: EU Parliament votes on pay transparency

Mind the gender pay gap: EU Parliament votes on pay transparency
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The European Parliament votes on Tuesday on a directive to enforce pay transparency across the EU promoting gender equality.

The proposal would require employers of organisations and companies of over 250 people to make information on the pay gap between male and female employees publicly available. In the case pay inequality is of 5% or more for the same role, the employer would be required to make changes to rectify this gap. Employers would also be forced to use gender-neutral criteria to define pay and career progression.

"A vote against the Pay Transparency Directive is a vote against women's rights and equal pay. Equal pay for work of equal value NOW!," said negotiator MEP Kira Marie Peter-Hansen.

Statistics on gender pay gaps

As of 2020, the average pay gap across the EU was 13%, according to Statbel. Yet the pay gap in Belgium was far less than the European average. Women earn 5.3% less than men in Belgium, a less distinct pay gap than Scandinavian countries Denmark (13.9%) and Finland (17.5%), which are often hailed for equality between the sexes, despite falling below the EU average on the pay front.

Age is a factor in Belgium with the pay gap increasing from 3.4% between the ages of 25 and 34, and to 8.9% for the 55-64 age group. The gender pay gap increases with age together with increasing family demands, although it is lower when women first enter the job market. But with less to invest with, the gap broadens as women age and leaves them at higher risk of poverty and social exclusion.

Since 2010, the wage difference between men and women in Belgium has fallen from 10.2% to 5.3% in 2020.The only countries which do better than Belgium are Luxembourg (0.7%), Romania (2.4%), Slovenia (3.1%), Italy (4.2%) and Poland (4.5%).

The notion of equal pay for equal work has been a pillar of the EU Treaties since 1957, yet EU countries still fall short some 65 years later. Yet improving gender equality by 2050 would boost GDP in the EU by between €1.95 trillion-€3.15 trillion, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

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Causes of the gender pay gap

A range of issues hold women back, including that women do more part-time work, according to the European Parliament. Further to this, women's career choices are influenced by family responsibilities and women are more likely to work in low-paying sectors. There are fewer female managers across the board.

These issues hold true for Belgium as well. Nearly twice as many women take on part-time employment compared to men, according to HR company Securex.

In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has had an adverse affect on women's employment due to the closure of crèches and schools. In Brussels, two out of three parents taking leave due to Covid-19 were women.

In general, unemployment in Belgium is higher for women than men.

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