International Women's Day 2010

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Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8 March. This year's theme is Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all. We present below a selection of recent Eurofound publications on women at work, gender and equality issues.

Gender pay gap

Addressing the gender pay gap: Government and social partner actions
In Europe, the gender pay gap stands at about 17.6%, which means that the hourly pay of women is on average almost a fifth less than that of men (Eurostat, 2007). This figure, however, does not take into account differences in the number of hours worked, different types of contracts, etc. The gender gap can in large measure be explained by differences between men and women in the take-up of part-time work and career breaks as well as sectoral elements.

Recent research shows that adjusting for observed differences only might be misleading when it comes to explaining the gender pay gap and addressing the level of discrimination. It is, rather, both horizontal and vertical segregation – or the fact that women tend to choose lower paid professions, reach glass ceilings within their professions, or see their jobs being valued less – which are very often found to be the major reasons for a gap. The actions of the social partners – through centralised collective bargaining or the establishment and increase of minimum wages, for example – could narrow the gap substantially.

Pay developments – 2008
Among the 28 countries reviewed in this study, the gender pay gap (on the basis of the data used) is widest in Estonia (at 30.3%) and narrowest in Italy (at 4.4%). Other countries with a notably narrow gender pay differential of less than 10 percentage points include Portugal and Slovenia, while those with a comparatively wide gender pay gap of more than 20 percentage points include Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Slovakia.

Patterns of recent employment growth in the EU: implications for gender equality - Background paper
Despite progress during the last generation, gender gaps in the labour market are closing only gradually, if at all. At EU level the gap remains at over 17% and has not declined in recent years. Variations in national gender pay gaps around this average figure do not reveal any obvious pattern in terms of economic growth or development.

Gender pay gap shown to exist even at start of career
A survey carried out by the Institute of Economic and Social Research reveals that, even at the start of their career, women earn considerably less than their male counterparts. Compared with the gender pay gap among older employees, the gap among those starting their career is slightly smaller in western Germany, but is wider in eastern Germany. The gender pay gap among career starters varies considerably according to economic sector and occupation.

New study examines persistence of gender pay gap
In September 2009, the Equality Authority and the Economic and Social Research Institute issued a report on the gender pay gap in Ireland in 2003. It revealed an unadjusted gap between men’s and women’s hourly wages of 22%, which is mostly due to gender differences in observable characteristics, such as education levels, labour market experience, job and company characteristics. However, when accounting for such factors, the remaining unexplained gap was nearly 8%.

Working conditions

KPN sets example by appointing women to key executive positions
Dutch telecommunications company KPN has taken the lead as the first group to exclusively invite women to apply for executive positions. In doing so, the company is taking a step further than the Dutch House of Representatives, which adopted a proposal of the governing Labour Party in October 2009 to introduce a target of 30% for women in executive positions in large companies.

Impact of parenthood on careers of young men and women
According to the ‘Generation 98’ survey findings, the work-life organisation of parents after the birth of children results in a contrasted picture of men’s and women’s professional development, noticeably for less qualified people. Young fathers invest more than young mothers in their professional life: their average income increases with the number of children, while their contribution to housework tends to decline. For young mothers, the reverse is true.

Female workers more prone to psychological disorders
In 2006, the French Institute for Health Surveillance set up the Samotrace programme to assess the relations between mental health and work. The first findings show a high level of psychological distress among workers, mainly among women and in certain economic sectors, such as financial services and public administration.

Women managers and hierarchical structures in working life
To better understand the progress women have made thus far in the European Union, this report analyses the current situation and the obstacles women face on the way to top managerial positions in more detail. It first examines what the literature tells us about the careers of female managers; then reviews the existing European data on women in managerial positions in the EU, using information from Eurofound's European Working Conditions Surveys.

Women at work: Paths to equality
This brief report summarises reflections on the very broad theme of women and employment from a group of researchers in the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (‘Eurofound’) with an interest in gender and labour market issues.

Working conditions in the European Union: The gender perspective - Executive summary
Following the 2005 survey, Eurofound carried out further in-depth analysis of its findings on key themes relating to working conditions in the EU. The similarities and differences in men’s and women’s working environments was one of the themes explored. The research looked at many specific aspects of job quality – including working hours, job satisfaction, work–life compatibility and work-related health outcomes – in order to gauge the experiences of women and men in an ever-changing workplace.