Gender pay gap in Europe: facts and figures (infographic)

Find out about the economic inequalities that continue to persist between women and men in the EU.

It has been more than 25 years since the adoption of the UN’s Beijing Declaration, which aims to promote equality between men and women. The same goal lies behind the creation of UN Women - dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women - and the inclusion of gender equality in the Sustainable Development Goals.

So where do we stand? Progress has been made, but inequality between men and women persists, including on the labour market. On average, women in the EU are paid less than men.

Check out what the Parliament is doing to narrow the gender pay gap

Understanding the gender pay gap

  • The gender pay gap is the difference in average wages between men and women
  • The unadjusted gender pay gap is the difference between the average gross hourly earnings of men and women expressed as a percentage of male earnings. It does not take into account education, age, hours worked or type of job.

How big is the gender wage gap in the EU?

Women in the EU earn on average almost 12,7% less per hour than men. There are large differences between member states: in 2021, the biggest gender pay gap was recorded in Estonia (20.5%), while the EU country with the lowest gender pay gap was Romania (3.6%). Luxembourg has closed the gender pay gap.

Infographic on the gender pay gap by EU country. More information can be read in the paragraph above.
Gender pay gap by EU country.

A narrower gender pay gap does not necessarily mean more gender equality. It often occurs in countries with lower female employment. A high pay gap may indicate that women are more concentrated in low-paid sectors or that a significant proportion of them work part-time.

Read about the Parliament’s fight for gender equality in the EU

Women and men on the labour market

The reasons behind the gender pay gap are not simple - many factors need to be taken into account. It’s connected to much more than the issue of equal pay for equal work.

Find out more about the causes of the gender pay gap

Although more women than men finish higher education in the EU, they are represented less on the labour market. According to 2022 figures, almost one-third of women (28%) work part-time compared to 8% of men and they are much more likely to stop work to take care of children and relatives.

The gender pay gap increases with age: it might increase as a result of career breaks by women, although these patterns vary between countries. It also differs by industry and in 2021 was higher in the private sector than in the public sector in the majority of EU countries.

An important reason for the gender pay gap is the overrepresentation of women in relatively low-paying sectors and underrepresentation in higher-paid sectors. For example, on average in 2021, women held 34.7% of managerial positions in the EU.

The gender pay gap means women are at higher risk of poverty in old age. In 2020, women in the EU aged over 65 received pensions that were on average 28.3% lower than pensions received by men. The situation between member states differs here as well: from a 41.5% pension gap in Malta to 0.1% in Estonia.

Parliament's actions to tackle the gender pay gap

In December 2022, negotiators from the Parliament and EU countries agreed that EU companies will be required to disclose information that makes it easier to compare salaries for those working for the same employer, helping to expose gender pay gaps.

In March 2023 Parliament adopted those new rules on binding pay-transparency measures. If pay reporting shows a gender pay gap of at least 5%, employers will have to conduct a joint pay assessment in cooperation with workers’ representatives. EU countries will have to impose penalties, such as fines for employers that infringe the rules. Vacancy notices and job titles will have to be gender neutral.

The Council still has to formally approve the agreement for the rules to come into effect.

Gender equality in the workplace and beyong