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EU revives controversial quota system also wage transparency to bridge the gender wage gap

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, the European Commission has established its gender equality plan – reviving some contentious policies such as quotas and cover transparency.

The EU is hoping to close the gender pay gap once and for all – but what exactly are its odds of finding the approval of member states and businesses? We asked trade unions and business lobbies in Brussels what they want.

Wage transparency

Ending the culture of wage secrecy in the personal industry is just one of those newest priorities for the European Commission.

“It is evident that you cannot compare wages unless there is pay transparency. We must talk to all stakeholders. The aim is to achieve this cover transparency to have the ability to move to deal with the gender pay gap,” Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli informed reporters.

But how would the EU manage to force businesses to come clean? Tactics can proceed from including the cover range in job advertisements to mandatory reports about wages which will be exposed to audits. However, the business sector prefers another strategy.

“We do not believe binding transparency goals would specifically improve the situation because we have seen in certain member states this was rather producing complexity,” explains Markus J. Beyrer, Director General, Business Europe. “What we need to do would be to really improve child care facilities and facilities for additional household members that might have to be cared for.”

Gender quotas

The gender pay gap in the EU stands at 16 percent, and there are large differences across the EU, ranging from 5% in Romania to 25% in Estonia.

Other steps in the EU strategy is going to be to have at least 50% of women on firms boards. Nowadays there are less than 8% of female CEOs from the EU’s largest companies, so trade unions call for compulsory quotas.

“Frequently the girls at the top try to do the perfect thing and this legislation will help them,” says Esther Lynch, deputy secretary-general European Trade Union Confederation. “This law will make them ready to visit the boardroom and say”I need pay equality within this business, the legislation backs up me, you must do it, help me do it”

Violence against women

Another priority is to combat sexual and physical violence which affects 33 percent of girls in the EU.