EU gender pay gap won’t end until 2104 without action

The EU’s gender pay gap won’t be eliminated until the next century at the current pace of change, ETUC research shows amid a delay in promised European Commission action to end the scandal.

Eurostat data shows the EU gender pay gap has closed by 1% over the last eight years, which means women will be waiting for another 84 years to achieve equal pay if current trends continue.

Without binding pay equality measures to change the current trends, the ETUC also found:

  • The gender pay gap would continue to grow in nine member states 
  • Women in German and Czechia will wait until 2121 for equal pay while the gap is closing so slowly in France (0.1% since 2010) that it is on course to take over 1000 years to achieve equality
  • Women in a further nine countries will have to wait until the second half of this century
  • The pay gap would end this decade without further action in just three countries (in at least one case on unacceptably low wages for women and men)

Against this background, the ETUC is alarmed that the European Commission has delayed publication of its anticipated pay transparency directive from November 4 (Equal Pay Day) until December 15 and cast the entire initiative into doubt by marking it as “tbc”.

In addition, there was no mention in the State of the Union address of the binding pay transparency measures that President von der Leyen promised to delivering within 100 days of her mandate.

The ETUC has written to President von der Leyen to seek clarity as to the reason for the delay and assurances that the directive will go ahead in spite of pressure not to act.

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch said:

“Big business likes to pretend that we’re making good progress in reducing the gender pay gap through voluntary measures. But women would be waiting over 100 years for equal pay in Europe if change continues at its current pace. The women who worked on the frontline during the Covid-19 crisis in systematically undervalued caring and cleaning jobs need pay justice now.

“Ursula von der Leyen raised hopes of real change with her promise of binding pay transparency measures within 100 days but this seems to be slipping off the agenda under pressure from those with anti-women and anti-equality sentiments as well as the the deep-seated bias that women so often face when they seek pay equality.

“We urge the Commission President to support Commissioner Dalli and prioritise the pay transparency measures that are urgently needed to make real progress towards equality and offer her the full support of trade unions in standing up for women.”

Country 2010 pay gap 2018 (or latest available pay gap) Year pay gap will be eliminated at current rate of change  
EU 15.8 14.8 2104
Belgium 10.1 6 2028
Bulgaria 13 13.5 Still rising
Czechia 21.6 20.1 2121
Denmark 17.1 14.5 2061
Germany 22.3 20.9 2121
Estonia 27.7 22.7 2058
Ireland 13.9 14.4 Still Rising 
Greece 15 12.5 (2014) 2034
Spain 16.2 14 2046
France 15.6 15.5 Over 1000 years
Croatia 5.7 10.5 Still Rising
Italy 5.3 5 (2017) 2074
Cyprus 16.8 13.7 2051
Latvia 15.5 14.1 Still Rising
Lithuania 11.9 14 Still Rising
Luxembourg 8.7 4.6 2027
Hungary 17.6 11.2 2031
Malta 7.2 11.7 Still Rising
Netherlands 17.8 14.8 2051
Austria 24 19.6 2052
Poland 4.5 8.8 Still Rising
Portugal 12.8 16.2 Still Rising
Romania 8.8 3 2022
Slovenia 0.9 8.7 Still Rising
Slovakia 19.6 19.4 2097
Finland 20.3 16.3 2046
Sweden 15.4 12.2 2050

The UK numbers are as follows:

Pay gap 2010: 23.3%
Pay gap 2018: 19.9%
Date at which pay gap will be eliminated at current rate of change: 2078