Which EU Country Has the Biggest (and Smallest) Gender Pay Gap?

The EU has a 16.2% pay gap (Credit: MPD01605/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

On November 3, European women start working for free.

That’s because there’s a 16.2 percent pay gap across the EU. For the last two months of the year women symbolically “stop being paid” due to this gap, according to the European Commission who tracks these statistics.

“Women and men are equal,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Commissioner Marianne Thyssen and Commissioner Věra Jourová in a joint statement. “This is one of the EU’s founding values. But women still effectively work for two months unpaid each year, compared to their male colleagues. We cannot accept this situation any longer.”

A variety of factors influence the gender pay gap, the Commission reports. This includes labour market segregation, inadequate work-life balance policies and discrimination.

While there is no country in Europe where women are paid more than men, the pay gap is different in every country. Here’s a breakdown of the differences across EU countries, and what’s behind the numbers.

Which EU country has the biggest gender pay gap?

Estonia has the largest gender pay gap in the EU. (Source: Eurostat)
Estonia has the largest gender pay gap in the EU. (Source: Eurostat)

At 25.3 percent, Estonia has the largest gender pay gap in the EU. A further breakdown by the country’s internal statistics found that the largest gap is in financial and insurance companies. Mining and quarrying, wholesale and trade work, and manufacturing also have high gaps. Overall the gender pay gap is smaller in state-owned businesses than in private businesses.

What EU counry has the smallest gender pay gap?

Romania has the smallest gender pay gap in the EU. (Source: Eurostat)
Romania has the smallest gender pay gap in the EU. (Source: Eurostat)

Romania has the smallest gender pay gap at just 5.2 percent. However, the OECD points out that small gender pay gaps can be due to ‘selection effects’, in which highly-qualified female workers tend to remain in the labour force, which artificially increases female median earnings. Romania has lower-than-average female participation in the workforce. Just 63 percent of recent female graduates work in Romania, for example, compared to 75 percent in the EU overall.

Wondering how this compares worldwide? Take a look at the gender pay gap in African countries.

Photo credit: MPD01605/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0