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European Commission - Press release

A Europe of equals: European Commission stands up for women's rights in turbulent times

Brussels, 20 November 2017

The European Commission kicks off today a major event on "Women's rights in turbulent times", the topical theme chosen for this year's annual Fundamental Rights Colloquium.

A new Eurobarometer survey also published today emphasises that gender equality is still not achieved in EU Member States. The Commission is announcing concrete action to put an end to the gender pay gap through an Action Plan to be delivered between now and the end of its mandate in 2019.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "Gender equality is a fundamental right, laid down in the EU Treaties. We must use the current focus on these issues in the media and politics to turn principle into practice. Women across Europe have the right to equality, empowerment and safety, but these rights are not yet a reality for far too many women. Today's event is about helping to bring about behavioural change and policy change so that we improve the lives of our citizens.

Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová said: "Women are still under-represented in decision-making positions in politics and the business world. They still earn 16% less than men on average across the EU. And violence against women is still widespread. This is unfair and unacceptable in today's society. The gender pay gap must be closed, because the economic independence of women is their best protection against violence."

The Colloquium brings together politicians, researchers, journalists, NGOs, activists, businesses and international organisations to discuss how to best promote and protect women's rights in the EU. Sexual harassment, violence against women, the gender pay gap and work-life balance are among the main themes to be discussed over the two days of the Colloquium. 

Eurobarometer survey shows gap between ambition and reality

The results of the latest Eurobarometer survey on gender equality show that there is still room for improvement across all EU Member States. Some of the most interesting results include:

  • Gender equality is important to most Europeans: 9 in 10 Europeans consider that promoting gender equality is important for society, the economy and for them personally.
  • More women are needed in politics: Half of Europeans think there should be more women in political decision-making positions, with 7 in 10 in favour of legal measures to ensure parity between men and women in politics.
  • Equal sharing of household chores and childcare is not yet a reality: More than 8 in 10 Europeansthink a man should do an equal share of household chores, or taking parental leave to take care of his children. However, the majority think that women still spend more time on housework and caring activities than men (73%).
  • Equal pay matters: 90% of Europeans say that it is not acceptable for women to be paid less than men, and 64% are in favour of salary transparency as a way to empower change.

Action Plan: Closing the gender pay gap

Women in Europe are still paid on average 16.3% less than men. The gender pay gap has not decreased in recent years, and is largely due to the fact that women tend to be employed less, in less well-paid sectors, take fewer promotions, take more career breaks, and do more unpaid work.

To address this problem, the European Commission is presenting today an Action Plan to tackle the gender pay gap for 2018-2019. Implementation of the action plan by all stakeholders will, amongst others:

- improve respect for the equal pay principle by assessing the possibility to amendment the Gender Equality directive.

- tackle the care penalty by urging the European Parliament and the Member States to adopt swiftly the work-life balance proposal of April 2017.

- break the glass-ceiling by funding projects to improve the gender balance in companies at all management levels; encouraging governments and social partners to adopt concrete measures to improve gender balance in decision-making.

More information

2017 Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights

Special Eurobarometer on gender equality in the EU

Action Plan to tackle the gender pay gap

Evaluation Report of the 2017 Pay Transparency Recommendation

Gender pay gap day factsheets


Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

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