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European Commission - Statement

Equal Pay Day: Statement by First Vice-President Timmermans and Commissioners Thyssen and Jourová

Brussels, 31 October 2017

Today, the average hourly pay of women in Europe is 16.3% lower than that of men. European Equal Pay Day, which falls on 3 November this year, marks the moment when women effectively stop getting paid compared to their male colleagues, with almost two months of the year remaining.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Commissioner Marianne Thyssen and Commissioner Věra Jourová said:

"Gender equality, including equal pay for men and women, is one of the EU's founding values. But it is still far from a reality. For the past years, the gender pay gap has basically refused to budge.

This means that women work for two months a year for free in comparison to their male colleagues. This is a shocking and unacceptable injustice in the 21st century Europe.

We urgently need to make progress with this stubborn issue, which affects women and our societies on many other points: Women still tend to work in lesser-paid sectors, get fewer promotions and are underrepresented in management positions. And single-parent households with women as the sole breadwinner are more exposed to poverty, including child poverty and consequent disadvantages.

Pay gap is not the only problem. Recent revelations on sexual harassment underline the sometimes hostile working environments which women also have to face, with obvious consequences for their professional development and well-being.

The European Commission wants to lead the way to fight this injustice. In a few weeks, we will present an Action Plan to Tackle the Gender Pay Gap. This will step up ongoing actions and present new measures.

In November we will also host a Colloquium on 'Women's Rights in Turbulent Times' and will dedicate part of the programme to finding new solutions to tackle the gender pay gap. Around that same time, the European Pillar of Social Rights will be proclaimed on the highest level, reaffirming that women and men have the right to equal pay for work of equal value.

Europeans are more aware of inequalities between the sexes than ever before, as we have seen in the recent #MeToo campaign on social media, and we must seize on the momentum this creates to take action and change behaviours. On European Equal Pay Day we commit to defend equal rights and opportunities on the labour market for women and men, and we will continue to do so until the EU becomes a truly good address for women."


In the EU, women perform equally well or even better in education than men, but this is not reflected in the labour market. In 2016, 33% of women in the EU had completed tertiary education, compared to 29% of men. At the same time, the overall employment rate of women is 11.6pp lower than that of men. Women also continue to be under-represented at top-level positions in the largest companies in the EU. Only 1 in 14 board chairs, and 1 in 20 CEOs are women.

The European Pillar of Social Rights, which will be proclaimed by the three EU institutions on 17 November at the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth, confirms the EU's commitment to ensuring gender equality between its citizens.

The European Commission tabled legislative proposals on Work-Life Balance on 26 April 2017, which will give more flexibility and better protection to mothers, fathers and carers, whether they wish to take time off caring for their children, benefit from flexible working arrangements or go back to work. The Commission calls on the European Parliament and Council to take forward these proposals as a matter of urgency.

On 20-21 November, the Commission organises its Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights on the topic of 'Women's Rights in Turbulent Times'


For More Information

EU factsheet and national factsheets

More information on the Commission's 'Violence against Women' campaign

Please support our efforts to raise awareness about EU Equal Pay Day on social media.  

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Press contacts:

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

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