European Equal Pay Day 2015

“Cheerful declarations do not reflect reality: there are no true equal opportunities for men and women. Just like in the past, women hit the “glass ceiling” in many places”, explains Kirsten Lühmann, the Chair of CESI’s Committee on Women's Rights and dbb Deputy Federal Chair concerning European Equal Pay Day on 2 November. Symbolically, this day commemorates the day on which women do not get paid any longer for their work until the end of the year, whereas men continue to receive their salaries until December 31st. The date was chosen according to a mathematical formula so that it would represent the gender-specific wage gap that still stands at 16.3 percent in the EU. The European Commission has defined equal pay for equal work as one of its priorities. The current European strategy for equality ends in 2015, after which a new strategy (that must yet be defined) will be applied.

European Equal Pay Day 2015

“The European Commission is demonstrating great motivation concerning issues relating to equality and it can count on CESI’s support in its endeavours”, says Lühmann. New, strong signals are required, especially following the final failure of the Pregnant Workers Directive. “Many member states want to slow the Commission down and make it impotent. This would really be a huge step back.”CESI could provide all its expertise relating to the modern working world for the EU equality strategy. “As trade unions, we see cases of unequal treatment on a daily basis, so we know that problems are particularly serious for women in the professional world.“

On Equal Pay Day, successes should most certainly not be forgotten either. It must also be said that progress has definitely been made in the past years. For example, the proportion of women on decision-making boards in the largest companies listed on the stock exchange has increased greatly: since 2010, it has practically doubled, reaching a good 20 per cent. “However, this is not sufficient. It is still too little. Without legal prescriptive quotas, things will not improve over the coming years.”Binding guidelines for leadership positions are not the solution in itself. But by imposing them, there will be a gradual increase of positive examples for women.“

Equal Pay Day in the EU was introduced in 2011. Most member states have their own national days. The situation in individual member states varies greatly. In Slovenia, the wage gap in 2013 was only 5.1 per cent, whereas in Estonia, it was practically 30 per cent. Germany ranks amongst the bottom third. There has been a small improvement, but according to the current Eurostat data, women in Germany still earn 21.6 per cent less than men. In most EU member states, this move forward has stagnated. There was a significant statistical improvement in some states in the early years following the financial and economic crisis of 2008, but the decrease in the wage gap was mainly the result of job losses amongst men, because male-dominated sectors were the worst hit by job cuts. Systematic improvements for women in Europe, such as the introduction of binding quotas for supervisory boards in Germany, have only rarely been applied in Germany over the past years.