Broad policy approach needed to combat multiple causes of gender pay and pension gap


On 29 May 2019, EIGE published a comprehensive research note entitled Tackling the gender pay gap: not without a better work-life balance. This research note provides an overview of the gender pay and pension gap across the EU, which stands at 16% and 37% respectively, as well as exploring the connection with emerging policies aimed at improving work-life balance.

EIGE recalls that the gender pay and pension gap is a subtle form of inequity which accumulates over the years and is caused by the clustering of women in underpaid feminised professions, the lack of women enrolling in STEM courses, and the absence of women in big companies offering generous pay structures. EIGE also points out that, as men are less tied-down by domestic duties and can put in more “visible hours” in the workplace, they are more easily promoted to positions of leadership than women, who often have to return home to resume their caring responsibilities.

According to EIGE, the total gender gap in net monthly earnings in the EU stands at 31%, to the detriment of women, but jumps to 48% for couples with children under the age of seven. Therefore, a financial penalty is inflicted on mothers with young children struggling to reconcile their professional and personal responsibilities. EIGE concludes this research note by enumerating effective policies to tackle the gender pay gap, namely the provision of subsidised childcare services, gender-neutral job evaluation systems, retraining programmes for carers, gender equality certification schemes, parental leave quotas and pay transparency legislation. In particular, ETUCE warmly welcomes the report’s focus on the active role that trade unions can play in negotiating pay transparency agreements at regional, national and European level.

ETUCE also shares EIGE’s concerns regarding “flexiwork” as a means to improve work-life balance, which allows women more time to carry out domestic duties and can lead to lower pay and pensions if not well implemented. ETUCE member organisations and affiliates organise conferences to educate women on the negative financial consequences of flexible part-time contracts and promote solutions such as working time models, which cater for teachers at different stages of their lives, and job-sharing arrangement for headship roles.

In the framework of ETUCE’s current project Empowering education trade unions to address gender equality in the teaching profession through social dialogue, member organisations have shared practical ways to help educators and education trade unionists to reconcile their professional and personal lives and close the gender pay and pension gap, among others. These best practices will be featured in an innovative online database, shortly accessible on ETUCE’s website.