With Innovative Tools Against the Gender Pay Gap

By Szilvia Borbély, manager Berbarometer, WITA GPG project manager

Since 1957, i.e. for more than half a century, the European Union has on its agenda to close the gender pay gap,  i.e. the difference between men’s and women’s pay, expressed as the average difference in gross hourly earnings of all employees. Yet, much remains to be done, since this structural pay difference persists till the present day, even though women by now outperform men at school and university. According to the latest Eurostat-data (2013) women still earn on average 16% less than men. It means women work for free - without pay - two months per  year. In some countries the situation over the past few years has even worsened. Estonian women presently work for free 3.5 months per year, Austrian women nearly 3 months, Spanish and British women nearly 2.5 months, Hungarian women 2 months, etc.

The European Commission Action Grant titled ‘With innovative tools against gender pay gap – WITA GPG’* aims to redress this unwarranted situation. What are these innovative tools the project refers to? 

Special Clauses in Collective Agreements

These tools include first of all special clauses promoting equal pay for equal work in the collective agreements. The aim is to stimulate social partners, trade unions in particular, to put on the agenda of collective negotiations the gender pay gap-issue systematically. The first step therefore is to collect existing good practices, i.e. make an inventory of relevant trade union policies and activities in the EU 28 plus Turkey and put it at the disposal of negotiators.

Global Gender Pay Gap Map

The project will give the public access to the Global Gender Pay Gap Map. This tool offers a wide range of information on the gender pay gap in many countries around the world.

Employers’ Views on the Gender Pay Gap

Not only the employees’ view is important. Behind the gender pay gap one often finds hidden, most often subconscious, discrimination, resulting in a negative attitude of employers vis-à-vis the potential of their female employees.  The project tries not just to voice employees’ opinions but employers’ standpoints and motives as well.

Wage Survey to Include Fringe Benefits

The WageIndicator web survey on wages will help to collect the data needed. For a more complete and detailed picture this survey not only takes into consideration the basic wages but also other monetary and non-monetary elements of the income – allowing for the analysis of not just the gender ‘pay’ gap’ but of the gender ‘income’ gap at the more comprehensive level.

Sector Analysis

One of the causes of the persistent gender pay gap is that the wage levels in sectors where the majority of employees are women are relatively low. Therefore the analysis will be sector-specific, identifying the sectors with the smallest gender pay gap and the reasons why.



Detailed Case Studies

The project takes a closer look at the Spanish, Hungarian and Dutch gender pay gap situation, penetrating down to the sector-level. The starting point of the analysis will be the data collected through the national WageIndicator surveys in these countries.

Next, the results of these studies, its insights and suggestions for better and best practices will be converted into a practical program of application for use in everyday life.  

Meetings with Trade Unionists

The project team meets with Spanish, Hungarian and Dutch trade unionists and shop stewards who take part in the collective bargaining and who can do their best for our joint purpose. They will learn about the good practices and discuss the possibilities to introduce gender pay equality issues into the collective agreements. Their experiences and ideas will be also gathered to serve as a good basis to act for others.  

Public Dissemination of Best Practices

The outcomes of these meetings will be published and widely disseminated throughout the European trade union movement. WITA-GPG will offer a unique information source for the support of trade unions officials and negotiators in trade unions in all 28 EU-countries plus Turkey. The public at large can access the WITA-GPG results through all websites at the disposal of the project, such as the national WageIndicator sites and those of the participating unions, as well as sites that the reviews and reports can be linked to.

What to Expect from WITA-GPG?

The gender wage gap has a variety of causes, such as differences in education and career decisions, types of positions and job, working hours, career breaks, etc. But explicit and implicit discrimination too cause the gender pay gap to persist. The promotion of clauses in collective agreements, the sensitisation of trade unionists and the social partners (including the employers) are assumed to diminish that particular part of the pay gap that is due to discrimination. In this systematic effort one has to bear in mind however that there are significant variations across Europe, both in scope and level of collective bargaining.   

The WITA-GPG project is carried out in synergy with the ETUC resolution ‘Collective bargaining - our powerful tool to close the gender pay gap’ (June 2015). This resolution means to beef up ‘the role of collective bargaining in reducing pay inequalities between women and men’ which should be promoted at all levels, i.e. national, sectoral, local and company. Trade unionists from Hungary, Spain and the Netherlands involved in the project will contribute to reducing the gender pay gap directly, while the other innovations will contribute indirectly by reaching out to a massive numbers of stakeholders through the national WageIndicator website and the sites it cooperates with.

*WITA-GPG is funded by the European Commission, JUST/2013/Action Grants (Nr 4000004929).