According to the latest figures recently released by the European Commission, the pay gap between women and men is still a reality in all EU countries, ranging from 27.3% in Estonia to 2.3% in Slovenia. Overall figures confirm a weak downward trend in recent years, with a gap decrease of 3.1% in Cyprus between 2008 and 2011, 2% above the EU average of 1.1%. Lithuania shows the most improvement at 11.9% in 2011 down from 21.6% in 2008, marking a 9.7% difference in three years, while the largest gap increase was found in Romania where pay difference between men and women reached 12.1% in 2011 up from 8.5% in 2008.
The Commission's report shows the biggest problem in fighting the EU pay gap is the practical application of equal pay rules and the lack of legal action brought by women to national courts. The report assesses the application of the provisions on equal pay in practice in EU countries, and predicts that for the future, the main challenge for all member states will be the correct application and enforcement of the rules established by the 2006 Equality Directive. It also confirms that the effective application of the equal pay principle is hindered by the lack of transparency in pay systems, the lack of clear benchmarks on pay equality, and by a lack of clear information for workers that suffer inequality.
The impact of the gender pay gap means that women earn less over their lifetimes, which results in lower pensions and a risk of poverty in old age.