- Isabella Lenarduzzi

More action needed to solve the gender pay gap

A study published by the Institute of Equality between Women and Men at the end of March has revealed that women in Belgium earn 10% less than men per hour. On an annual basis the gap increases to 23%.

“The wage gap between women and men remains a fact. The (…) figures for 2011 prove it yet again,” states Michel Pasteel, Director of the Institute Egalité des Femmes et des Hommes. “The gap only serves to reinforce inequality among women and men”.

But there is some hope. Belgium fares slightly better compared to last year and is by no means at the bottom of the class compared to the rest of Europe. Estonia recorded a staggering 27% difference in the hourly rates.

When calculating on an annual basis it’s the Netherlands that wins the prize for the highest gender wage gap at 45%. With 75% of women working part-time, the Netherlands is a real ‘champion of part-time work’, which leaves women in a vulnerable financial position.

So back in Belgium, what does this mean for the sectors? In the public sector where salaries are fixed according to roles leaving no room for negotiation, unsurprisingly there is no pay gap. But when it’s left up to us women to negotiate our own salaries we nearly always end up more out of pocket than our male colleagues.

In the private sector the gender pay gap overall is 25% among white-collar employees and 17% among blue-collar workers. That gap widens as we go deeper within the sectors. In the aviation sector the gap has risen to 35% and in gas and electricity it currently stands at 30%. Of course, I hear you say, these are industries traditionally dominated by men!

There are other factors where the gender wage gap is even more pronounced. A woman’s age and education play a deciding factor. The more experienced and the more educated a women is, the more she is likely to fall into the gender pay gap. The gap in the 45-54 age bracket is 15% but over 55 years old it rises to 22%. Among directors it rises to 34%!

Women come off worse still when we consider extra wage benefits. Employers pay pensions contributions to only 10% of female employees compared to the 13% of men and the amount they receive is an astounding 44% less than men. Men also get 29% more than us when it comes to reimbursed travel costs and 44% more in share options.

So clearly, we need to try harder to close the gender pay gap and to negotiate much better. Please, dare to ask!