Equal Pay Day 2017 Are you earning enough?

Editor: Rosemarie Stahl

Spring is approaching, and while everyone is looking forward to higher temperatures and longer days, there is bad news for the women: Probably they have worked for free since the beginning of the year.

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In manufacturing, women earn 19.2 % less than men.
In manufacturing, women earn 19.2 % less than men.
(Source: pressmaster - Fotolia)

On 18 March, 2017, Germany celebrates Equal Pay Day. Like in many other countries in Europe, this day is meant to point out the inequality in salary for men and women. In the European Union, women's gross hourly earnings were on average 16.3 % lower than those of men in 2015. According to Eurostat, Italy has the smallest gap with 5.5 %, while women from Luxembourg and Estonia get 26.9 % less.

There are many reasons why women still earn less money today. In many cases, the career choice is an important factor. This choice is even reflected in the choice of education: While women make up by far the greater part of graduates in the European Union, engineering, manufacturing and construction are still male dominated fields. Most recent data (Eurostat, 2016) shows that women prefer Education over STEM. Four out of five graduates in Education are women, in Health and welfare they are overrepresented as well, with 75 %. Even if women choose another career path, they may end up earning less: Overall, the difference between salaries in manufacturing ranges between 5 % in Sweden and 31.6 % in Portugal.

Another reason, why women earn less than men, is the consequence of breaks in careers due to childbearing or other decisions in favour of family life. Here there are vast differences between countries. Some have very good supporting programmes for mothers helping balancing private and work life.

It is important to note that these numbers are defined as an unadjusted indicator. There are many different factors that are not taken into account. According to Eurostat, the gap is the consequence of various structural differences such as working patters, institutional mechanisms and systems of wage settings. The wage gap still can be seen as an indicator of inequality.

Germany celebrates Equal Pay day on 18 March because it indicates how long woman have to work, in comparison to men, before they earn anything. The gap in Germany is currently 21 %. Converted to a year, they work for free until 18 March. Other countries, though they celebrate the day on another date, have similar reasons for choosing that date. The UK for example, celebrated Equal Pay Day last year on 10 November,to show that for the rest of the year, women would be working without pay.

Some more dates for Equal Pay Day in Europe are:

  • Austria: 4 March, 2017
  • Belgium: 14 March, 2017
  • Czech Republic: 24 March 2017
  • Germany: 18 March, 2017
  • Portugal: 2 November, 2017