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Brussels, 4 March 2011

First European Equal Pay Day highlights EU earnings gap

Women in the European Union earn on average 17.5% less than men during their lifetimes. This stark figure will be highlighted tomorrow during the first EU-wide Equal Pay Day. This day – 5 March – marks the extra number of days in 2011 that women must work to match the amount of money earned by men in 2010. The European Commission is committed to closing the gender pay gap and published an overall strategy for gender equality in September 2010 (see IP/10/1149 and MEMO/10/430). This year’s Equal Pay Day, which aims to raise awareness of the pay gap, comes ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March.

"97 million women in Europe have been working since 1 January, but are only really starting to get paid this week," said Vice-President Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "The European Equal Pay Day reminds us of how much work needs to be done to close the gender pay gap. Together with Member States and social partners, we will seek to significantly reduce the gender pay gap in the EU, so that one day we will no longer need an Equal Pay Day to mark the differences in earnings between men and women."

Equal pay for equal work is one of the EU's founding principles. It was already part of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. However, progress in reducing the gender pay gap has been slow: The rate ranges from 5% in Italy to 30% in Estonia, according to the latest figures for 2008. This reflects complex and ongoing inequalities in the labour market.

To tackle the gender pay gap, the Commission will:

  • Support equal pay initiatives at the workplace such as equality labels, “charters,” and awards, such as those identified in a recent EU study of non-legislative initiatives for companies to promote gender equality at the workplace;

  • Support the development of tools for employers to correct unjustified gender pay gaps; such as the Logib tool, which is used in Germany and Luxembourg and allows companies to identify gender pay gaps within their organisations;

  • Explore ways to improve pay transparency as well as the impact on equal pay of atypical working arrangements such as part-time work and fixed-term contracts;

  • Seek to encourage women and men to enter non-traditional professions; make it easier for both women and men to balance work-life duties;


Thanks to EU and national legislation on equal pay, cases of direct discrimination – differences in pay between men and women doing exactly the same job – have fallen. But the pay gap goes far beyond this: it reflects ongoing discrimination and inequality in the overall job market.

The effect of the gender pay gap on lifetime earnings means that women will also have lower pensions. As a result, elderly women are more likely to face poverty: 22% of women aged 65 and over are at risk of poverty compared to 16% of men.

Awareness-raising activities are essential to inform employers, employees and stakeholders why there is still a gender pay gap and how we can reduce it. The Commission is therefore continuing an EU-wide information campaign with actions across the 27 EU Member States. An online gender pay gap calculator allows employees and employers to visualise the gender pay gap.

A Eurobarometer survey on gender equality released last year showed that 62% of Europeans believe gender inequality still exists in many areas of society. 82% of respondents said the gender pay gap should be addressed urgently and 61% think that decisions at EU level have an important role to play in the promoting gender equality.

On 1 March, Vice-President Reding met with CEOs and chairs of boards from some of Europe's top firms to discuss how to increase the number of women in company boardrooms (see IP/11/242 and MEMO/11/124).

Further information

  • Gender equality in the EU:

  • Gender pay gap campaign:

  • Homepage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship:


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