“For equal pay, you need transparency,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the commission’s president, who had pledged to make pay transparency binding after she came into office in December 2019. “Women must know whether their employers treat them fairly. And when this is not the case, they must have the power to fight back and get what they deserve.”
Although theoretically the principle of equal pay for equal work is one of the founding values of the 27-nation European Union, the difference in salaries of men and women doing the same work stands at 14.1 percent, and the difference in pensions is 30 percent, the commission said. According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, a research group, female managers earn a quarter less than male ones.
Despite several efforts to enforce equal pay in practice, for more than 60 years it seemed out of reach for women across the bloc, which presents itself as the beacon of human rights and equality. So far, only 10 European countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, have introduced national legislation on pay transparency.
The proposed E.U.-wide law requires approval by member countries and the European Parliament. There are concerns that it might be blocked by national governments, as happened with the European Commission’s proposal to introduce gender quotas on management boards. Wary of these potential obstacles, Vera Jourova, the bloc’s top official for values and transparency, called the proposal on pay “pure pragmatism and good economic calculations,” underlining that gender equality at work benefited businesses.