PES Women: the gender pay gap is not a game


Group photo of PES Women meeting - 28 February 2020

Members of PES Women stand with Gender Pay Gap - Not a Game promotional materials at the statutory meeting in Brussels

Today, at a statutory meeting in Brussels, PES Women presented its campaign to raise awareness of pay discrimination in the European Union: Gender Pay Gap - Not a Game.

Equal pay for equal work, or work of equal value, has been enshrined in the European Treaties since 1957. Yet today the average pay gap between men and women is 16% in the EU. Across EU countries and occupations, the figures vary widely.

PES Women President Zita Gurmai said:

“Gender equality is not a game. The gender pay gap is not a game. Europe needs to raise the stakes on equal pay. We cannot allow people to overlook this blatant inequality. 

“Yesterday we launched our European Not a Game campaign to highlight this issue and how we can correct it. The wide-ranging consultation the European Commission is holding on its Gender Equality Strategy is very welcome. Now the Commission must heed the many voices who are demanding action on the gender pay gap. The EU needs to introduce binding targets to close the gap by 2030, criteria for assessing work of equal value, gender pay gap audits and other binding pay transparency measures, as well as sanctions for non-compliance.

“With this approach we can drive the gender pay gap down to zero, so all men and women in Europe are paid equally for the same work. This is the fair deal women deserve.”

Not a Game uses the familiar mirror-image design of playing cards to highlight jobs where gender-based pay discrimination is particularly high. Kings, queens and jacks in the specially designed deck depict male and female workers in jobs with some of the largest pay gaps in Europe.

These cards are a game – but the gender pay gap is not. Airline pilots, those working in food production, healthcare professionals, welders/metal workers are among the professions where women earn significantly less than their male counterparts in some European countries.

The Not a Game campaign marks European Equal Pay Day (27 February), the point when European women finally catch up with European men’s earnings from the previous year. Women need to work the equivalent of an additional 58 days, or 16% of the year, to earn the same amount as their male colleagues.

Pay discrimination is only one factor behind the gender pay gap. On top of this, higher-paid professions are dominated by men, and women’s pay is negatively affected by greater care responsibilities and higher uptake of parental leave. Additionally, sexual harassment and discrimination in hiring and promotion create barriers for women, which negatively affect their earning potential. Gender can also intersect with other social factors, such as race, age, and disability, which further compounds the pay gap.

It’s time to put the cards on the table – a lack of comprehensive EU-level data prevents a proper analysis of the gender pay gap. National level reporting varies in its frequency and detail.

Europe needs pay transparency legislation. This must include set criteria for assessing work of equal value, gender pay gap audits, and sanctions for non-compliance. Greater transparency is a vital first step to reduce the pay gap, supporting gender mainstreaming across all areas of government, particularly labour market policies. Finances for gender-specific data collection must be made available.

With the right measures, the gender pay gap could be eliminated by 2030. PES Women is looking forward to seeing binding measures to promote equal pay in the upcoming EU Gender Equality Strategy.

Notes for editors

About Gender Pay Gap - Not a Game

  • Gender Pay Gap - Not a Game is based on reporting on pay discrimination within certain occupations from the UK, Germany and France. More information about the campaign can be found on the PES website and the Equal Pay Day website.
  • Social media graphics for the campaign can be found on the PES Women Twitter and Facebook page.
  • European Equal Pay Day (27 February) marks the point when women catch up with men’s earnings from the previous year. The gender pay gap in the EU is 16% and women need to work the equivalent of an additional 58 days, or 16% of the year, to earn the same amount as their male colleagues.