EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Vladimir Spidla pointed out that in Europe, only Estonia, Cyprus and Slovakia had wage gaps that were as large or larger.
In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, Spidla noted that the average wage gap across the EU shows women earning 15 percent less than men. The fewer the women in the work force, the lower the average wage, he noted.
The commissioner called for more compatibility between work and family, and for more women in leadership positions. He also called on business to pay equal wages for equal work.
"I call upon employers to really apply the principle of equal pay for equal work,” Spidla said, adding that employers have a “key role” in fighting an unjustifiable wage gap in the EU.
It is “important that they stick to the relevant rules and regulations,” he said.
A question of ethics -- and productivity
Closing the wage gap is more than just a question of ethics, Spidla said. In the end, fair pay increases worker motivation and productivity.
Commission studies show that women in the EU are increasingly active in the work force. From 2000 to 2006 some 7.5 million more women have entered the work force, compared with 4.5 million men. But one out of three women only works part time, compared with every twelfth man, Spidla noted.
Working part time can be a personal choice for many women, he said. But he added that the “real reason many women work part time is that they have less time than men, because they are busy with raising children or taking care of relatives.”
Correlation between parenting, job hours
In the EU, only 62 percent of women with children are in the work force, compared with 91 percent of men with children.
“Being a parent puts constant pressure on the employment rate of women, whereas it does not affect that of men at all. That is no longer acceptable,” Spindla said.