Equal Pay: Still a Dream in 2018?


As another year passes, equal pay between women and men has not yet been achieved anywhere in Europe or in the world.

Equal pay was the first EU gender equality legislation adopted over 40 years ago. According to experts, it could take 100 years to achieve equal pay if the pace of change continues at its current speed. The average gender pay gap in the EU stands at 16% and, and the gender pension gap is a startling 40%, close to the average life-long-earning gap between women and men (40%). The gender pay gap in the UK is 18%.

Take a look at the European Commission’s recently launched EU Action Plan 2017-2019 – Tackling the Gender Pay Gap. The plan spells out the persistent barriers as we know them:  gender segregated labour-markets; women’s work in sectors where they tend to be concentrated is valued at a lower rate than those where men are concentrated; persistent gender stereotypes; lack of work-life balance options and expectations towards women to be the prime care givers which leads to part-time and increasingly precarious working pay and conditions; a staggering gender pension gap and higher rates of poverty as they age. Moreover, the gender pay gap does not affect all women the same way: race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, level of education, location and other social or personal circumstances of women may affect the parity in earnings with men for work of equal value to different extents.

Eights areas for action in the Commission’s plan are:

  • Improving the application of the equal pay principle
  • Combating segregation in occupations and sectors
  • Breaking the ceiling: initiatives to combat vertical segregation
  • Tackling the care penalty
  • Better valuing women’s skills, efforts and responsibilities
  • Fighting the fog: unveiling inequalities and stereotypes
  • Alerting and informing about the gender pay gap
  • Lending hands: enhancing partnerships to tackle the gender pay gap

These are not dissimilar to the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report Fairer Opportunities for All – a strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain Read report :

  • Unlock the earning potential of education by addressing differences in subject

and career choices, educational attainment and access to apprenticeships

  • Improve work opportunities for everyone, no matter who they are or where

they live

  • Offer flexibility in all jobs at all levels
  • Encourage men and women to share childcare responsibilities
  • Reduce prejudice and bias in recruitment, promotion and pay decisions
  • Report on progress in reducing pay gaps

Gender pay gap reporting being implemented now is very welcome but reporting alone won’t lead to a sustained reduction in the size of pay gaps. The EHRC recommendations look at closing gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps, tackling the barriers, constrained choices, discrimination and outmoded stereotypes that drive them. Read about gender pay reporting here and here

Recently I attended an Equality Diversity Forum seminar hosted by Cloisters – Closing the Race Employment and Pay Gaps. We looked at use of targets procurement, education, role models in leadership and types of work. The one thing I came away with was information about the new Government Cabinet Office Ethnicity Facts and Figures Website. Take a look here. The service provides information about different experiences of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. It puts all the data collected by government in one place. Still a work in progress but very impressive. The ability to disaggregate data to reflect women and the different circumstances they experience is something we have been campaigning for and will continue to. Without the full story the solutions will not fully address the issues of pay.

Iceland is celebrating the implementation of its new Equal Pay Standard law on equal pay, i.e. public and private companies with 25 employees must prove that they are paying women and men equally.