Women based in the European Union (EU) effectively have to work 59 days for free every year due to the impact of the gender pay gap.
That is according to new official data compiled by the European Commission (EC), which has shown that despite recent efforts to narrow the discrepancy between the salaries received by males and females, the latter still earn significantly less than the former.
For instance, the latest figures available from 2010 indicate that women in the 27-member state economic bloc are, on average, paid 16.2 per cent less per hour than their male counterparts.
This represents a marginal improvement on the level of around 17 per cent seen in previous years, but the current difference means that females would have to complete an extra 59 days of work from the beginning of every year to receive the pay typically awarded to males.
Furthermore, the EC noted that the fact the gap has shortened over the course of the last few years has very little to do with efforts being made by companies to promote greater levels of equality within their organisation.
Instead, the body attributed this trend primarily to the impact of the global economic downturn, as sectors that are traditionally dominated by male workers - such as engineering and construction - have struggled more than other industries throughout the recession, meaning wage cuts and freezes have been most common in these industries.
With this in mind, the EC has insisted more needs to be done to promote workplace equality across the EU and has therefore launched a new programme called Equality Pays Off, in which it offers training, events and activities to firms to help them treat employees equally.
Viviane Reding, justice commissioner at the EU, observed: "The principle of equal pay for equal work is written in the EU Treaties since 1957. It is high time that it is put in practice everywhere."
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Posted by Francesca Witney