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The gender wage gap in Italy is among the lowest in Europe

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Equality is still a long way off, but the good news is that the gender pay gap in Italy is still one of the lowest in Europe. In our country, women earn 4.2 per cent less than men, the fourth lowest percentage of the bloc, compared to an average of 13 per cent in the twenty-seven member states. This is what emerges from the data released from Eurostat, which calculated the gross salary of workers for companies with more than ten employees. The highest gender differences were observed in Latvia (22.3 percent), followed by Estonia (21.1 percent), Austria (18.9 percent) and Germany (18.2 percent). While the gap is very small in Luxembourg (0.7 percent), Romania (2.4 percent) and Slovenia (3.1 percent).

However, it should be noted that this is a not entirely accurate indicator: although it can provide a general picture of what are the differences between men and women in terms of pay, the concept of “equal pay for work of equal value” includes a much broader sphere of possible discrimination. A small gender pay gap in a specific country does not necessarily correspond to greater equality between men and women. In some Member States, a smaller gap may be linked to lower participation of women in the labor market. Similarly, higher gaps can be traced to a high percentage of women in part-time jobs or to their concentration in a small number of professions.

The causes of pay differences

As he points out a report from the European Commission, women continue to be victims of real discrimination, which means that they are paid less than male colleagues who have the same qualifications or who work under the same conditions and in the same professional categories and in being subjected to a demotion upon return from maternity leave. But the causes of the disparity are also other. On average, women do more housework hours than men, such as taking care of children or the house. All this implies a lower willingness to provide paid work and it is no coincidence that 30% of women work part-time, compared to 8% of men.

Women are also more likely to have career breaks due to family responsibility. But the close connection between women and family is certainly not the only cause of the wage difference. About 30% of the total gender pay gap, in fact, can be explained by an over-representation of women in relatively low-wage sectors. In addition, there are still jobs, for example in the fields of science, technology and engineering, where the percentage of men employed is very high (over 80%).

Why is it important to close this gap?

Gender equality is not just a question of justice. As one states European Parliament study, reducing wage differences between men and women would favor the country’s economic growth and reduce poverty. In addition, gender equality would lighten the burden on the fragile pension system: if the gap is low when women enter the labor market, it has been observed how the differences widen with age, during career and with increasing family needs. With lower wages and less money to invest, the risk of economic hardship and social exclusion therefore increases in old age.