Gender pay gap in Europe: Should men and women get equal salary for same work?

Definition & Causes

The “gender pay gap” is defined as the average difference between men’s and women’s hourly earnings within the economy as a whole. It is about the discrimination and inequalities in the labour market which primarily affect women.  But why does the gender pay gap even exist? Here some causes at a glance:

Direct discrimination – meaning that women and men are doing the same job, but women are paid less

The undervaluing of women’s work – because of the way women’s competences and skills are valued compared to men’s. When jobs require similar qualifications, experience or skills they tend to be low-paid and undervalued when it is dominated by women rather than by men.

Segregation in the labour market – this is about the different jobs women and men are holding. They are predominated in different sectors and within these sectors women mainly occur in lower paid and lower valued jobs.

Traditions and stereotypes – this cause is often connected with segregation. It demonstrates the personal choices of woman, for instance what education, professions and paths they follow.

Balancing work and private life – it is about dealing with the family and care responsibilities, which is still main business of women. In general women face more career breaks or work shorter hours than men.

Some Facts

  • Jobs that are mainly carried out by women, are paid less than jobs, that are mainly carried out by men
  • Women get a lower average income than men with the same job description and the same wage group, also when they are full-time employed. Even at entry into professional life there are differences in earnings, although they have the same qualification level.
  • In year 2008 women’s earnings were estimated at 17.5% lower than men’s. On the one hand these lower earnings result in lower pensions, on the other hand more women than men will face poverty in old age.
  • Women are underrepresented in managerial and senior positions. For instance, women represent only 32% of managers in companies within the EU, 10% of members of management boards of the largest companies, and 29% of engineers and scientists
  • Over one-third of women work part-time, compared to only 8% of men across Europe. More than three-quarters of the total of part-time workers are women
  • Women with children earn about 2.5% less than women without children, while men with children earn about 2% more on average than men without children

Situation in the EU

The pay gap is one of the structural indicators used to monitor the imbalances in wages between men and women. This indicator has been defined as unadjusted because it gives an overall picture of the inequalities in the labour market and gender discrimination concerning pay.

The following chart is provided by Eurostat and based on structure of earnings survey. Apparently there are considerable differences between the member states. The pay gap goes from less than 10% in Italy, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Belgium to more than 20% in Slovakia, the Netherlands, Cyprus, Germany, United Kingdom and Greece. More than 25% you can see in Estonia, Austria and Czech Republic. It is important to know that the pay gap does not indicate the overall equality between women and men. It just refers to salaried persons. In order to this you must have a look at other labour market indicators. In general this reflects the different employment patterns of women. In countries where the female employment rate is low like for example in Malta, Italy or Greece the wage differences are lower than the average. In countries with a highly segregated labour market like for instance Cyprus, Slovakia and Finland or countries in which more women work part time like in Austria, Netherlands, UK and Germany the pay gap is very high.

Chart: The unadjusted gender pay gap, 2008 (% difference between average gross hourly earnings of male and female employees, as % of male gross earnings, unadjusted form)

An important step on the road to gender equality in all social areas is the establishment of equal opportunities on the labor market. Women also need their own income from which they can live. This is the key to independence and autonomy. Do you also think there should be a “fair p(l)ay”?

Main source:



8 thoughts on “Gender pay gap in Europe: Should men and women get equal salary for same work?

  1. A look at history: the real women of their rights began to struggle in 16th-17th century, when there was a feminist movement. Across Europe, women gained the right to work and vote in only 20. century, associated with the two world wars, when the hands were needed both in industry and other sectors. But as the women in the labor market, compared with men, has recently, then there is that some discrimination, which are both trying to eradicate. Still many believe that more women, however, for family life, rather than the labor market, although recent data show that in terms of education are currently ahead of strong gender.
    In my opinion there should be a fair game between men and women. But I also see a women’ fault in this issue:
    There is still a large part of society prevailing perception that men need to earn more, support a family, his woman, so also are required to have bigger pay of the men’s side – that also serves as the basis or reason for the actual wage discrimination between genders.
    My conclusion: wage discrimination between genders has to changc false opinions.

  2. The pay gap between the genders is a big issue. As rasa11 pointed out there was a big movement towards womens rights, however it is hard to believe all this time later and women are still not equal in every way to men!
    I understand that in some countries women are still seen to be the home-makers, this brings in religion and a whole other host of issues, but in my personal opinion women should be seen as complete equals to men. The fact that this pay gap still exists is awful and steps must be taken to close the gap once and for all!

  3. I think that the pay gap is the most rediculous thing in the world. People should get payed by their results and work, and not by their genter color or nationality. I think that the pay gap will be soon eraised, because in times like this everybody has to work there is no space for discrimination, and besides that women are emancipating every day more and more.

  4. Absolutely right… Currently I’m writing my dissertation about that topic. “An investigation into possible factors which prevent women from accessing leadership positions” and I particularly refer to the German Business culture. That is e.g. the main contradiction to women as “leaders”. It is ridiculoius and I really hope that women can delete things like a glass ceiling and sticky floor and so build equality and more self-concept!

  5. The discrimination between men and women has been one of the most controversial social issues. Among them, gender pay gap might be the most disputed area. It’s truly obvious that women get paid less than men in the work force (though some cases are exceptional). The situation might be getting better, but still it’s a serious problem. It would be great if this article suggest the solution about this issue.

  6. It is good to know that more and more companies are also focusing on points such as the “gender diversity” and are therefore also employing women on top management positions. I agree with dado11 that emancipation is growing more and more and that discrimination against women is ridiculous. Examples such as Angela Merkel (Germany’s Federal Chancellor) show how responsible and capable women can be and that they’re able to take such powerful positions!

  7. The gender pay gap should in my opinion be eradicated i find it annoying that in this age of day woman and men are still inequal when it comes to carrying out the same work. Discrimation in the labour market had a considerable rise in women’s wages during the 1980s, the gain decreased in the 1990s. The 2000s are characterised by a mixed picture of increase and decline. In n 2003, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that women in the United States, on average, earned 80 % of what men earned in 2000 and workplace discrimination may be one contributing factor. In light of these findings, GAO examined the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in the private and public sectors.

  8. Hi there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of
    the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.

    I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.


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