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Despite the EU’s 2006 Directive on equality between men and women in the labour market, differences in their pay persist and are even growing, say MEPs in a non-legislative resolution voted on Thursday. As member states did not take the opportunity to update their laws on equal opportunities and treatment, MEPs urge the EU Commission to table fresh legislation "providing for more effective means of supervising the implementation and enforcement in member states".

The resolution was approved by 344votes to 156, with 68 abstentions.

“Equal pay for equal work is a fair principle that must be valued by all employers. Today, this is not the case, which is why we need better legislation”, said rapporteur Anna Záborská (EPP-SK).

EU member states are often slow to apply and enforce the equal pay principle and the gender pay and pension gaps still average 16.4% and 38.5% respectively across the EU, (Eurostat figures 2013), with significant differences between countries, says the text.

Only in the Netherlands and France does the Directive’s transposition into national law appear to be “sufficiently clear and correct”, according to an EU Commission report on the application of the 2006 Directive. The gender pay gap is widest in Estonia, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia and narrowest in Poland, Italy, Malta and Slovenia.

Call for sanctions

In view of the lack of progress in closing the gender pay gap, MEPs propose mandatory pay audits for large stock exchange listed companies and possible sanctions at EU level in cases of non-compliance (such as excluding companies from EU budget-funded public procurement of goods and services or financial penalties for employers who do not respect wage equality.

Furthermore, the resolution calls for:

  • harmonized neutral job classification and evaluation,
  • objective criteria for comparing work of “equal value”,
  • wage transparency (to reveal bias against women and pay discrimination),
  • free legal aid for victims of discrimination,
  • the prohibition of any discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or gender reassignment,
  • the reconciliation of work and private life (preventing unfair dismissal during pregnancy, and
  • positive measures to step up the involvement of women in decision making.

Note to editors


The European Parliament called for further action to make equal pay rules more effective in resolutions voted in 2008, 2012 and 2013.

  • The GPG exists even though women do better at school and universities than men. Women make up 60% of university graduates in the EU (Eurostat) 
  • 34.9% of women work part time, but only 8.6% of men (Eurostat 2012)  
  • Women in the EU receive on average 38.5% less in pensions than men, because in addition to the GPG, a higher proportion of women work part-time, earn lower hourly wages, and spend fewer years in employment. (source: Eurostat 2012) 
  • Employment rate for women in the EU is 58.8%, compared to 69.4% for men (Eurostat figures)