EU Unequal Pay Day – a symbolic day with real life implications

EU Unequal Pay Day – a symbolic day with real life implications

Equal pay for women and men is still not a reality in Europe. This is why the women’s organization of the Party of European Socialists, PES Women, teams up every year with their Flemish member organization ZIJkant to organizeEUUnequal Pay Day, a symbolic day to make aware that women effectively start working for free until the end of the year.

In 2022, we mark European Unequal Pay Day on 15 November. The European Unequal Pay Day is a symbolic day to raise awareness on the fact that female workers in Europe still earn on average 13% less than men (on average gross hourly income of full and part-time workers, Eurostat, 2021). The differences between European member states are big. In Luxembourg, the pay gap is under 1%; while in Austria, Estonia and Germany, the gap is close to 20%, and in Latvia it is 22.3%. The reasons behind the pay gap are broad: blatant pay discrimination, women take on more unpaid work, more leave to take care of others, there is horizontal and vertical segregation of women and men in the workspace, and more. This affects not only their pay but also pensions later in life.

To mark this day, PES Women and ZIJKant held a conference, “Championing Equal Pay – what are the ways forward?”, hosted by the City of Brussels in the Brussels Townhall on 4 November. The recording is available here. The conference brought together politicians, experts and decision-makers from public and private sector to discuss the ways forward towards equal pay and to exchange best practices.

Every year, PES Women and ZIJKantconduct a public campaign with their fellow member organizations and partners. This year’s campaign video (see also below) highlights the role that men can play to contribute to close the gender pay gap. Men already have the skills needed to carry out household chores and other care activities. When men do their share, the burden which still falls predominantly on women lessens substantially. The video has been created with the agency Motierbrigade and production company Czar, and it was premiered at the Championing Equal Pay conference.

The gender pay gap is just one symptom of the gender inequalities which exist in our labour market. PES Women outlines the bigger picture in our publication “A feminist economy for Europe – towards a progressive economic system that works for women”, which would result in decent jobs and fair pay for women and men, sustainable growth, closing the gender pay gap, pensions gap and employment gaps, and overall create a more equal and just society.

To combat the pay gap and eliminate it over time, PES Women puts forward the following proposals:

  • Labour policies, including telework, must consider the gendered division of care and evaluate how flexible working arrangements affect women’s employment and the gender pay gap.
  • The European Gender Equality Strategy and the European Pillar of Social Rights must be implemented, together with the EU Work-Life Balance Directive to encourage more men to take up unpaid care responsibilities in the home. Reducing working hours collectively gives both men and women more time for work-life balance.
  • Extending paternity leave and to make it compulsory would also contribute to better work-life-balance for both parents, including self-employed and adoptive parents.
  • New, ambitious, gender-mainstreamed EU legislation to improve working conditions can address particular challenges for women workers including directives for decent working conditions and mental wellbeing in the workplace, legislation on the right to disconnect.
  • Strong collective bargaining and social dialogues to ensure collective rather than individual solutions to achieve equal pay.
  • Swift approval and national transposal of the EU Pay Transparency Directive and the Minimum Wages Directive, which are essential to combat in-work poverty and improve women’s economic independence.
  • Targeted measures at EU and national level to combat horizontal labour market segregation. Improving pay and conditions in women-dominated sectors, ensuring access to upskilling, more men working in care, and more women in STEM should be a priority.
  • A Care Deal for Europe, including child care and long-term care. The first step towards this is the EU Care Strategy, which focusses on formal and informal care.
  • Investment in projects which challenge gender stereotypes in all areas of public and private life, with a special focus on combatting gender-based violence, toxic masculinity and sexism must be adequately funded.
  • The EU should explore a new model for EU companies, which implements genuine democracy in management. Rules should imply due diligence, the respect, and enforcement of human rights and gender equality, possibly with a dedicated directive.
  • Foster quotas to promote female leadership in the private and public sectors. The EU Women on Boards Directive is a great first step.


European Unequal Pay Day takes place in November. This date is not chosen randomly: it symbolises the size of the difference in pay between women and men on the labour market. If this pay gap diminishes, European Unequal Pay Day shifts to an later date in the year. The opposite happens when the gap widens. While the European pay gap of 13% translates into 47.5 days of unpaid labour and thus leads to the European Unequal Pay Day on the 15 November. On national level this day can fall earlier or later in the year, depending on the respective pay gap in each Member State. Visit to find out more.