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Equal opportunities report 2001

Equal opportunities report 2001

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Equal opportunities report 2001


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Equality between men and women

Equal opportunities report 2001

To present an overview of the main developments and achievements in the field of equal opportunities in 2001 – at both European and national level – and to describe the outlook for 2002.

2) Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission, of 28 May 2002, to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Annual Report on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the European Union 2001 [COM(2002) 258 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

3) Summary

Framework strategy on gender equality (2001-2005)

The Community framework strategy, adopted in June 2000, is aimed both at integrating the gender dimension in all Community policies that have an impact on the equal opportunities objective (principle of mainstreaming) and at promoting the introduction of specific measures to reduce inequalities. In 2001, noticeable progress was made with regard to both the integration of gender issues in the various policies and the introduction of specific measures.

As regards the mainstreaming of gender equality in Community policies, significant advances were noted in a number of areas, including the following:

  • enterprise: a study aimed at identifying and evaluating good practices in relation to the promotion of female entrepreneurship was launched, while another study to assess the gender impact of the “Innovation and SMEs” specific programme within the 5th framework research programme (1998-2002) was finalised and published recently.
  • Broad Economic Policy Guidelines: the Belgian Presidency of the European Union (EU) – July-December 2001 – launched an initiative to strengthen gender mainstreaming in the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines;
  • the Barcelona process: under the MEDA programme for cooperation with southern Mediterranean countries, a regional forum on the role of women in economic development was held in Brussels in July 2001;
  • education and continuing training: an action plan for gender equality (2001-2002) was adopted by the Socrates Committee in February 2001. The first phase is concerned with evaluating the gender dimension and the second phase with identifying indicators for improving the implementation of gender equality;
  • humanitarian aid: in 2001, the European Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) continued to incorporate the gender dimension in humanitarian aid. For example, it funded projects focusing on the specific needs of women, particularly in Iraq, Serbia and Afghanistan;
  • the employment strategy: in connection with the adoption of the annual employment package, on 12 September 2001 the Commission sent a set of recommendations to eleven Member States encouraging them to strengthen equality between women and men;
  • combating violence and trafficking: implementation of the DAPHNE and STOP programmes continued in 2001 and the Commission adopted a new STOP II programme (to run until 2003). The implementation of the STOP II programme provided an opportunity to focus on assisting and protecting women who are the victims of violence;
  • the social inclusion process: in June 2001, the Member States drew up their first biennial national action plans based on common objectives to combat poverty and social exclusion. In these plans, most Member States identified higher risks of poverty and social exclusion among elderly women, single parents and victims of domestic violence. Even though many Member States are committed to enhancing the mainstreaming of the gender dimension over the next two years, there is still a lot to be done to find a consistent approach to gender needs and characteristics across all the strands of these plans.

As provided for in Decision 2000/407/EC of 19 June 2007, the Commission is committed to achieving a male/female balance in committees and expert groups, with a target of 40% minimum participation of both women and men. Following a first survey in 2000 among certain expert groups of the Commission in which an average of only 13.5% of the members were women, a second, much more comprehensive survey was conducted in 2001. In that year, the average percentage of women in all the Commission’s committees and expert groups was 28.8%. Among the members of those committees and expert groups for which the Commission had the right of appointment, 30.5% were women, whilst among the committees and groups on whose membership the Commission had no influence 28.4% were women.

The Member States continued to carry out a whole series of activities aimed at promoting equality between women and men and mainstreaming the gender dimension. The many initiatives taken include the example set by Austria, which adopted a project aimed at increasing the presence of women in the technology sector, especially IT. In Sweden, the law on equality between men and women was strengthened in January 2001. In the United Kingdom, a new government telephone helpline “Equality Direct” – backed up by a website – designed to provide firms with free information and advice on all equality-related issues was set up.

Equal pay was the priority theme chosen for 2001 under the Community framework strategy on gender equality and the associated funding programme. It was chosen because it is the most visible inequality in the European labour market. Despite the existence of legal provisions on this subject, women still earn an average of 14% less than men (in 1997, this difference was more pronounced in the private sector – 19% – than in the public sector – 10%).

The high profile given to the issue of equal pay was reflected in the conclusions of the Stockholm European Council (March 2001), which called on the Council and the Commission to develop appropriate indicators. This preparatory work enabled the Belgian Presidency to produce a set of indicators on pay differentials between women and men. Moreover, in September 2001 the European Parliament adopted a report on equal pay, which confirmed that a diversified approach would have to be adopted by all parties, whether European institutions, Member States or social partners, in order to obtain tangible results. The European Employment Strategy also plays an important part in achieving the objective of equal pay. Following the evaluation of the national plans for 2001, certain Member States announced various initiatives aimed at reducing pay differentials. However, the efforts will have to be continued if these initiatives are to come to anything and the social partners are to take an active part. Lastly, it is important to stress that the majority of the 27 projects selected in 2001 under the action programme address the issue of equal pay. Their funding amounts to a total of around 8 million euro. The first results of these projects are expected in 2003.

The following priority themes have been chosen for the programme on gender equality over the next few years:

  • 2001-2002: equal pay;
  • 2002-2003: reconciliation of work and family life;
  • 2003-2004: women in decision-making;
  • 2004-2005: gender stereotyping.

Legal developments

Substantial progress was made in 2001 on the proposal to amend the 1976 Directive on equal treatment in employment. The amended Directive is expected to break new ground in a number of important areas, including:

  • recognition of sexual harassment as discrimination on grounds of sex;
  • encouraging employers to prepare annual equality plans;
  • strengthening of the provisions concerning the judicial protection and compensation available to individuals in the event of discrimination;
  • strengthening of persons’ rights regarding maternity or paternity leave.

In response to questions put by national courts about cases relating to gender equality, the Court of Justice of the European Communities handed down three major rulings in 2001:

  • the judgements given in the Melgar and Tele Danmark cases, according to which instances of dismissal or non-renewal of an open-ended employment contract by reason of pregnancy constitute direct and unjustifiable discrimination on grounds of sex;
  • the Menauer case, in which the Court held that German pension funds entrusted with administering occupational pension schemes were bound by the principle of equal pay in the same way as an employer;
  • the Griesmar and Mouflin cases relating to two provisions of the French Civil and Military Pensions Code that discriminate against men, which were declared incompatible with Community law.

As regards the main developments in Member States’ legislation, a Finnish collective agreement provides that every sector can henceforth create a special equality allowance, which is designed to raise the remuneration of women who are not paid sufficiently well despite the difficulty of their work and their education in traditionally low-paid industrial sectors. In Denmark, the Equal Pay Act has been amended so that it is now more transparent. As far as national case law is concerned, the UK Employment Appeals Tribunal has broadened the definition of “comparator” so as to allow an employee of a local authority to compare him or herself with an employee of another local authority even where the two salary scales had been agreed independently. Paternity leave has been introduced in Greece and legislation on this subject has been proposed in France, Finland and the UK. Moreover, Greece, Ireland and the Netherlands have introduced legislation on the extension of maternity leave.

Equality in the enlargement process

The work of transposing European legislation on equal opportunities is under way in the candidate countries, some of which already obtained good results in 2001. However, the legislation in itself is not sufficient. The introduction of support mechanisms is just as essential to the achievement of gender equality. In this context, it is vital to have institutional and administrative structures that facilitate the implementation of and respect for rights relating to equality. Substantial efforts still need to be made in this direction.

Outlook for 2002

In 2002, the spotlight will be on reconciliation of work and family life. Various initiatives will be launched at European level in order to raise the profile of this issue, to finance transnational projects, to improve the statistics and indicators and to draw up a report on the application of the parental leave Directive.

The Commission will also submit a proposal for a directive on discrimination on the grounds of sex. This new legal basis will make it possible to take action in areas other than employment and social security, which at present constitute the relatively limited field of application of Community law on equality.

In 2002, the fight against trafficking in women and violence and the enhancement of the importance given to gender equality in the EU’s external policies and the actions of the Structural Funds will continue to be policy priorities. Lastly, in line with the current evaluation of the participation of women in the decision-making process and with an eye to the European Parliament elections in 2004, the Commission plans to focus its activities in 2003 on promoting the gender balance in decision-making.

4) Implementing Measures

5) Follow-Up Work

Report from the Commission, of 5 March 2003, to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Annual Report on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the European Union 2002 [COM(2003) 98 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Report on equal opportunities 2002

Report on equal opportunities 2002

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Report on equal opportunities 2002


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Equality between men and women

Report on equal opportunities 2002

To present an overview of the main developments and achievements in the field of equal opportunities in 2002, both at European and at national level, and to describe the outlook for 2003.

2) Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission, of 5 March 2003, to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Annual Report on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the European Union in 2002 [COM(2003) 98 Final – Not published in the Official Journal].

3) Summary


2002 was an historic year in the European Union (EU) enlargement process as it saw the conclusion of accession negotiations with 10 candidate countries. The period leading up to their entry into the EU on 1 May 2004 will therefore be an opportunity to step up monitoring and support for these countries in the final stages of their preparation for full membership. In this context the action programme for equal opportunities was opened up to candidate countries in 2002.

Legal Transposition

In the field of equal opportunities nine European Directives had to be transposed. The majority of accession countries, in particular Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, are fairly well advanced in the process of alignment with this acquis. Cooperation will continue with Romania and Bulgaria who have made significant progress towards alignment with Community law.

Implementing structures

Transposing the law is not enough in itself. It is equally important to establish adequate institutional and administrative structures, in particular equality organisations and mediators as well as independent advisory bodies. Several countries, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Poland have already set up structures of this nature. In both Cyprus and Malta the administrative capacities needed to transpose the Community acquis are in place but need to be further strengthened.

The socio-economic dimension

There is a marked contrast between the current Member States and the accession countries in socio-economic terms. For many years there was a strong presence of women on the labour market in the accession countries, but their numbers fell significantly during the early years of the transition. Levels of unemployment are high among both women and men, particularly in Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and the Slovak Republic. Moreover, men’s participation in the labour market is lower than the EU average and therefore the gender gap in terms of both employment and unemployment is narrower than in the EU. However, as in the Member States, labour markets in the accession countries are strongly gender segregated and the salary gap is wider still. There is a general recognition of the need for a gender mainstreaming policy and strategy but the necessary tools are lacking. Furthermore, beyond the basic provisions for maternity and parental leave, there have been very few developments in terms of family-friendly working-time arrangements.

Cooperation in the field of social inclusion mainly consists of preparing Joint Inclusion Memoranda, the aim of which is to prepare the accession countries for full participation in the European Social Inclusion Process from the date of accession. The memoranda will be finalised by the end of 2003 and, for accession countries, represent a major step towards establishing their first National Action Plans in 2005 to combat poverty and social exclusion.

As regards the role of women in decision-making, it is important that women in accession countries are able to reap the benefits of existing Community law on male-female equality. When European elections are held in June 2004 women will have to be in a position to take on their role, equal to that of men, in decision-making and political life. In 2003 the Commission will concentrate its activities on the promotion of gender balance in decision-making which will provide a basis for action and exchange on this theme between accession countries and Member States.


The strategy for gender mainstreaming has proved an efficient tool in the promotion of equality between men and women. Gender mainstreaming combined with specific actions, legislation and financing programmes in particular, constitutes the dual approach covered by the framework strategy for gender equality.

The European Employment Strategy

In 2002 the Commission carried out an evaluation of the European Employment Strategy which revealed that more emphasis is being put on the gender equality issue, even in the Member States that were “lagging behind”, and the gap between the sexes has narrowed in terms of employment and unemployment rates. Nevertheless these inequalities are still too marked and a lot remains to be done in order to overcome them. Furthermore, substantial progress still has to be made in the development of child-care facilities.

The Structural Funds

In this area gender equality policy is also based on the dual approach of specific measures along with gender mainstreaming across all Structural Fund operations. This dual approach is most advanced in the European Social Fund (ESF), the EU’s main financial support tool for the European Employment Strategy. Most of the initiatives aimed at reducing gender inequalities focus on employment and are funded by the ESF. Gender mainstreaming has proved more difficult in other Structural Fund areas such as transport, the environment and rural development.

As regards improving the promotion of gender equality through the Structural Funds, only a few programmes using the funds in the Member States have adopted a global gender mainstreaming strategy. Moreover, the majority of these programmes lack clear targets and monitoring in terms of gender equality.

The Social Inclusion Process

The European Social Inclusion Process has been developed to support Member States in their fight against poverty and social exclusion. The Member States draw up National Action Plans on the basis of the common objectives set out by the Council of Ministers. They have also been asked to include gender mainstreaming in all their strategies for combating poverty and social exclusion.

The gender dimension did not feature strongly in the first National Action Plans submitted in 2001, but in July 2002 the Ministers agreed to enhance this aspect of the plans which added great impetus to successful gender mainstreaming. In the next round, due in July 2003, the National Action Plans are expected to put more emphasis on specific actions on gender and demonstrate gender mainstreaming throughout.

The gender dimension in the national strategies on pension

Although women are in the majority amongst old people, most pension schemes have traditionally been designed for men who support a family and work full time without taking a career break. The first national reports, submitted in September 2002, show that many pension systems still reflect these basic principles. In many countries, in fact, women’s pensions remain, on average, significantly lower than men’s. However, there is some evidence that the Member States are gradually adapting their systems in line with developments in the social and economic role of women and men, although the effects of such changes are not likely to be felt for some time.

Other policies

In the field of research and development the Commission intends to create a European Platform for women scientists aimed at promoting female scientists and involving them more actively in shaping the science policy debate at national and European level. Furthermore, in December 2002 the Commission published its first calls for proposals under the 6th Community Research Framework Programme among which was a call for proposals concerning women and scientific activities.

In May 2002, in response to the Commission’s Communication entitled “Making a European area of lifelong learning a reality”, the Council adopted a Resolution which recognises equal opportunities as one of the fundamental principles behind the concept of lifelong learning. It also views ongoing training for women, particularly within companies, as an essential goal.

The Commission’s Directorate-General (DG) Environment included gender mainstreaming in its Management Plan. Significant progress has been made in the field of waste, water, marine and soil management in which gender impact studies have been undertaken.



Directive 76/207/EEC on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards employment, professional training and promotion and working conditions was amended in September 2002. One of the key amendments dealt with sexual harassment at work. For the first time at European level a binding law now defines sexual harassment and prohibits it as a form of discrimination based on sex. Although the Member States have until 2005 to conform to the Directive’s new provisions, the majority of them have already adopted measures aimed at combating sexual harassment, particularly Belgium, France, Finland and Ireland.

Several national courts have been called on to pass judgement on the issue of equal pay. In the Netherlands, for example, a court has ruled in favour of a care worker who brought a claim over equal pay.

In 2002 several Member States took initiatives to facilitate the reconciliation of work with family life. Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, Catalonia and Germany have actually adopted measures along these lines.

The action programme

Equality of pay between women and men was the main theme in 2001, the first year of the programme, because the salary gap between men and women is one of the most striking inequalities that women face in their professional lives. The majority of the projects chosen in the framework of the Action Programme dealt with issues of equal pay. The results are due in 2003 but, since the projects run for 15 months, several conferences on the subject were held in 2002 and provided an opportunity to underline the persistence of the equal pay issue.

The reconciliation of work and family life was the priority in 2002. This is an essential part of the gender dimension in the European employment strategy and in the social inclusion process. It aims to ensure favourable conditions for women and men for entering, returning to and remaining on the job market. This includes access to quality, affordable childcare services, an equal division of childcare and domestic responsibilities, encouraging fathers to take parental leave and the possibility of flexible working arrangements both for men and women. In response to the calls for proposals under the Gender Equality Programme, 18 projects on this theme were selected in 2002 under the action programme.

In 2003 the emphasis will be on women in decision-making. Attaining political parity remains a concern both at Member State and European level. Although several Member States have introduced legislation in this field, the results of recent national elections failed to live up to expectations. In France, for example, the equality law did not have the desired effect of balancing representation either in the local or parliamentary elections. Several Member States such as Belgium, Ireland, Spain and the UK are now tackling the issue of gender-balanced political representation.

In 2004-2005 priority will be given to the theme of male and female stereotypes.


Trafficking in human beings

The fight against trafficking in human beings is one of the EU’s political priorities. In 1996 the EU launched the STOP programme in support of actions aimed at combating the trafficking of human beings and the sexual exploitation of children. In September 2002, the European conference “Preventing and combating trafficking in human beings – Global challenge for the 21st century” took place in Brussels. The conference was a Commission initiative in the framework of the STOP II programme and was organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the European Parliament and the Commission. It resulted most significantly in the Brussels Declaration aimed at developing European and international cooperation and encouraging the adoption of concrete measures, norms, good practices and mechanisms to combat and prevent trafficking in human beings. With this aim in mind, the Brussels Declaration makes recommendations on the prevention of trafficking, assisting and protecting victims and police and judicial cooperation.

Domestic violence

Community action to prevent violence against children, young people and women and to protect victims and groups at risk is brought together under the DAPHNE programme. Early in 2003 the Commission issued a proposal on the second phase of Community action, DAPHNE II (2004-2008). This proposal is similar in structure to that of the initial DAPHNE programme (2000-2003) and draws on the experience gained through the first programme.

Other initiatives

Serious attention has also been paid to a number of worrying situations, including the condition of women in Afghanistan, the stoning of women and the integration of Muslim women into European society.


The Commission’s work programme for 2003 will include the following horizontal priorities for all its services:

  • gender impact assessment will be incorporated into the overall impact assessment of new proposals and gender mainstreaming will continue in new areas;
  • each service will increase its efforts to obtain gender-specific data, to systematically break down all related statistics by gender and to establish gender equality indicators;
  • each DG and service will incorporate gender mainstreaming modules into their training plans for all staff, particularly those at management level.

The Commission will launch an open consultation on possible guidelines for the recasting of existing Directives in the field of equal treatment. Furthermore, in 2003 the Commission intends to present a report on the implementation of the Directive on parental leave, looking in particular at the reasons why fathers fail to exercise this right. Lastly, the Greek and Italian presidencies will prepare an analysis, including indicators, of women in decision-making.

4) Implementing Measures

5) Follow-Up Work


Report on equality between men and women, 2004

Report on equality between men and women, 2004

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Report on equality between men and women, 2004


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Equality between men and women

Report on equality between men and women, 2004

Document or Iniciative

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 19 February 2004, “Report on equality between women and men, 2004” [COM(2004) 115 – Not published in the Official Journal].


In response to the request of the 2003 Spring European Council, the Commission has drafted, in collaboration with the Member States, an annual report to the Spring European Council on the progress achieved in promoting equality between women and men and on the approaches taken with a view to mainstreaming the gender dimension into the various policies.


The Member States and accession countries have undoubtedly made progress towards greater equality between women and men. The Commission report confirms a positive trend towards reducing inequalities between the sexes in several strategic fields.

For example, in most of Europe there are more females than males in secondary and higher education. Today, the majority of graduates are women, even if they are still in a minority at the highest level of education. Moreover, use of the Structural Funds, in particular the European Social Fund, has been found to have a catalyser effect on national gender equality policies.

However, the rate of progress observed tends to vary over time and from one Member State to another. Inequalities persist in most of the strategic areas, and slow progress is jeopardising Europe’s competitiveness. According to the objective set at Lisbon, the European Union has committed itself to becoming, by 2010, the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. The active participation of women on the labour market and reducing the gap between the sexes in the various fields are vital if this objective is to be achieved.

The Commission therefore calls on the Member States, via the European Council, to redouble their efforts to promote equality between men and women in all areas of society and draws their attention to certain challenges.


Effectiveness of the Community’s gender equality policy

The Commission emphasises the need to guarantee the rapid implementation in the Member States of recently adopted legislation and the correct transposition of EU law in the area of equal treatment in the accession countries.

For reasons of simplicity and legal certainty, and in the context of enlargement, the Commission plans to replace the existing legal texts with a single directive on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment for men and women in work and employment. The Commission also wishes to see the adoption, before March 2005, of the proposal for a directive extending the scope of equal treatment legislation beyond the labour market, to include, in particular, access to goods and services and the provision of goods and services.

Reducing inequalities on the labour market in employment and pay

The Commission notes that, although it has definitely narrowed, the gap between women and men in employment and unemployment rates remains considerable. However, they should be less pronounced after the enlargement of the Union. The pay gap between women and men is still wide, more so in the private sector than in the public sector. Women are still particularly vulnerable to poverty, especially when they are less well educated, suffering domestic violence, older or living alone with children.

It is vital for Member States to pursue their efforts to ensure equal treatment for men and women on the labour market and to meet the Lisbon objective of a female employment rate of 60% by 2010. The Commission would like to draw their attention to certain priorities: promoting the quality of employment, making work pay, combating pay cuts in occupations where the number of women is starting to rise and obtaining a real commitment from the social partners.

Work/home life balance

The opportunities for women and men to balance their career with their home life has a decisive impact on the success of strategies for increasing employment rates. The report shows that women perform the majority of domestic and family tasks. The Commission recommends the promotion of parental leave systems shared by both parents, particularly in order to ward off the negative impact of long-term maternity leave on women’s employment. In order to allow women and men to continue to work, Member States should improve the supply of childcare services and care for other dependants, using sufficient, appropriate structures. It is also important to encourage men to shoulder a more equal burden of family responsibilities.

Promoting the balanced participation of men and women in decision-making

Women are still under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes, at European and national levels. Governments, political parties and all the social partners should therefore be mobilised in order to ensure balanced representation of men and women in decision-making in all areas of society. The Commission is also promoting a balanced representation of men and women in the elections to the European Parliament in 2004.

Implementation of gender mainstreaming

The Commission emphasises the need to step up the implementation of gender mainstreaming in all the relevant strategic areas, both in the Member States and at EU level. Moreover, equality between men and women must remain a priority in the use of all the Structural Funds, especially in the context of the new programming period for the Structural Funds. It is also important to strive for equality between men and women in the European Research Area.

Combating violence against women and the trafficking of women

The Commission is in favour of moving beyond the mere political recognition of the need to eliminate violence against women and the trafficking of women. The Member States and the accession countries must step up and broaden their efforts, formulate benchmarks and measure progress against them. Preventing and combating violence in the home is essentially a local and national matter, but may also come within the framework of the new programme Daphné II. The trafficking of women must be combated using a global approach which includes prosecution, victim protection and assistance, as well as preventive measures based on campaigns and cross-border and international cooperation.

Report on equality for men and women, 2005

Report on equality for men and women, 2005

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Report on equality for men and women, 2005


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Equality between men and women

Report on equality for men and women, 2005

Document or Iniciative

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 14 February 2005, “Report on equality for men and women, 2005” [COM(2005) 44 – Not published in the Official Journal].



Community legislation

The Directive on equal treatment for men and women in access to goods and services and the provision of goods and services in December 2004 extended the acquis on equal treatment for men and women beyond the field of employment for the first time.

Moreover, in April 2004, the Commission adopted a proposal recasting the existing five directives in order to clarify the principle of equal treatment for men and women in employment.

Finally, the Directive on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings was adopted in April 2004.

Gender gaps

On the whole, gender gaps have been reduced, but the pay gap remains virtually unchanged.

In terms of employment, the gap between men and women shrank by 0.5 points between 2002 and 2003 to 15.8%. The employment rate for women was 55.1% in 2003.

As regards unemployment, the gap between men and women remained stable, as the unemployment rate was 10% for women compared with 8.3% for men in 2004.

The average proportion of part-time jobs was 30.4% for women and only 6.6% for men in 2004. This gap tends to increase each year.

Reconciling work and family life remains a major challenge. For women with small children, the employment rate is still 13.6 points below that for women without children, whilst the rate of employment for men with small children is 10 points higher than for men without children. These figures can be accounted for by limited access to child-care structures and by sexist family stereotypes with women taking on most of the work involved in the household and bringing up the children.

The pay gap between men and women hardly seems to have been reduced at all, remaining stable in the European Union at approximately 15% in 2004.

Elderly women are more likely to suffer poverty than men. Moreover, single parents tend to be prone to multiple disadvantages and are particularly exposed to social exclusion.

In pension schemes, which differ greatly from one country to another, the entitlements of women are lower than men because of their limited participation in the labour market (part-time, long breaks for bringing up children). However, some countries are changing their systems, giving pension rights for periods spent bringing up children or caring for a dependent or disabled person.

Immigrant men and women

The rate of employment amongst nationals from third countries is, on average, much lower than for European Union nationals, with the difference being even more marked for women than men. Furthermore, the difference between the employment rates for highly qualified European women and immigrant women with the same qualifications is on the rise.
The pay gap between immigrant women and European women is 10% whilst it is only 4% for men.


In order to cope with the challenges of population ageing, Europe must encourage people to enter the labour market, create policies to continue to promote employment of women in all age groups and make full use of the potential for women’s employment amongst immigrants. The challenge also lies in reducing the pay gap between men and women and making it easier to reconcile work and family life for both men and women.

Strengthening the position of women in the labour market

The Member States must make an effort to reduce the gap between the employment rates for men and women, in particular in the higher age groups. They must address the fact that pay gaps show no signs of diminishing and ensure that there is no gender segregation in the labour market (by occupation and sector). They must reform their social protection systems and eliminate financial or other factors that are a disincentive to women’s employment.

Improving child care and dependant care services

Provision of services to care for children or dependants which are affordable, accessible and of high quality must be improved by, inter alia, financial contributions from the Structural Funds, so that women can enter the labour market and stay there throughout their lives (reconciling private life and work).

Targeting men to achieve equality for men and women

The social partners in the Member States must promote work organisation systems that help to reconcile work and private life and systems for adequate parental leave which is shared by the two parents. They must also raise awareness amongst men to encourage them to share responsibilities for child care.

Gender mainstreaming in immigration and integration policies

Gender must be taken into account in integration policies to fully utilise the potential of immigrant women in the labour market. The Member States must take better account of cultural practice and expectations with regard to the role of women in the host country and country of origin, and combat the twofold discrimination – sexist and racist – they are faced with.

Evaluating progress on equality for men and women

The Member States, the Commission and the Council of Ministers must step up their continued efforts to prepare comparable statistics and indicators that are broken down by sex in policy areas where these data are not available.

The Commission’s proposal of March 2005 for setting up a European institute for equality for men and women should enable these data to be collected more easily and extend the scope for evaluation.

Furthermore, the tenth anniversary of the Beijing Action Platform in 2005 is an opportunity for the European Union to confirm the commitments made at the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and to present the progress made on gender equality since 1995.


Equal pay

Equal pay

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Equal pay


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Equality between men and women

Equal pay

The Directive prohibits all discrimination on the grounds of sex in relation to pay. It offers recourse to judicial process for persons disadvantaged by a failure to comply with this principle and protects complainants against the employer’s reaction. It also calls upon the Member States to eradicate any discrimination laid down in national laws, regulations or administrative provisions and to inform workers of measures taken in application of the Directive.

Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 75/117/EEC of 10 February 1975 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the application of the principle of equal pay for men and women [See amending acts].


The principle of equal pay entails, for the same work or for work to which equal value is attributed, the elimination of all discrimination on grounds of sex with regard to all aspects and conditions of remuneration. Where a job classification system is used for determining pay, it must be based on the same criteria for both men and women.

Judicial process

Employees wronged by failure to apply this principle must have the right of recourse to judicial process to pursue their claims.

Discrimination in legislative provisions

Member States shall abolish all discrimination between men and women arising from laws, regulations or administrative provisions which do not comply with the principle. They shall take the necessary measures to ensure that provisions appearing in collective agreements, wage scales, wage agreements or individual contracts of employment which are contrary to the equal pay principle may be declared null and void. They shall ensure that the equal pay principle is applied and that effective means are available to take care that it is observed.

Protection against the employer’s reaction

Employees shall be protected against dismissal by the employer as a reaction to a complaint within the undertaking or to any legal proceedings aimed at enforcing compliance with the equal pay principle.

Information and communication

The provisions adopted pursuant to the Directive and relevant existing legislation shall be brought to the attention of employees.

Member States shall forward all necessary information to the Commission by the deadline specified, to enable it to draw up a report on the application of the Directive.


The aim of the Directive is to reinforce the basic laws with standards aimed at facilitating the practical application of the principle of equality to enable all employees in the Community to be protected, as there are still disparities between Member States despite efforts to date.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 75/117/EEC 12.2.1975 12.2.1976 OJ L 45 of 19.2.1975
Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2006/54/EC
repeals Directive 75/117/EEC of 14.8.2009
15.8.2006 15.8.2008 OJ L 204 of 26.7.2006

Related Acts

Regulation (EC) No 1177/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 June 2003 concerning Community statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) [Official Journal L 165 of 3.7.2003].

A new Community database (SILC) has been created with a view to collecting comparable statistics in all Member States on income, poverty, social exclusion and other aspects of living conditions.

Resolution of the European Parliament on equal pay for work of equal value (


) [Official Journal C 77 E of 28.3.2002].

Given the continued existence of gender pay gaps in the European Union in favour of men, Parliament calls on all the social players at European level, namely the Commission, the Member States, the social partners and the candidate countries, to give renewed impetus to the policy of equal pay for men and women.

Commission Communication of 17 July 1996 on the code of conduct concerning the implementation of equal pay for women and men for work of equal value [COM (96) 336 final – not published in the Official Journal].

The Communication aims to provide concrete advice for employers and collective bargaining partners at business, sectoral or intersectoral levels in order to ensure the implementation of the principle of equality. In particular, it aims to eliminate sex discrimination where the pay structures are based on job classification and job evaluation schemes.

Essentially, the Code proposes that negotiators at all levels, whether on the side of the employers or the unions, should carry out an analysis of the remuneration system and evaluate the data required to detect sexual discrimination so that remedies can be found. The Code also proposes that a plan for follow-up should be drawn up and implemented in order to eliminate any sexual discrimination evident in the pay structures.

The Code is intended to be applied at the workplace, both in the public and private sectors. Employers are encouraged to follow the recommendations in the Code, adapting them to the size and structure of their businesses.