Social affairs minister: Equal pay for equal work for men, women a priority ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) at an Estonian government meeting.
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) at an Estonian government meeting. Source: Government Communication Unit

The Estonian government on Thursday confirmed its positions answering to European Commission consultations for increasing wage transparency, the goal of which are to identify the most effective opportunities for ensuring the principle of equal pay for women and men.

Estonia has the highest gender pay gap in the European Union. Studies indicate, however, that publishing wages helps reduce this gap as well as benefits the economy as a whole, according to a Ministry of Social Affairs press release.

"The government considered important compliance with the EU's requirement for equal pay for equal work for women and men in its member states and the coordination of EU  initiatives on this matter," Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said. "Wage transparency has a positive impact on employee satisfaction and organizations' reputations, and this in turn leads to a decrease in staff turnover and increase in motivation and productivity. This is why I consider it a priority that we take the necessary steps in Estonia and are actively involved on the EU level on the topic of reducing the gender pay gap."

Among factors contributing to the gender pay gap in Estonia are widespread personal wage negotiations, a lack of consideration of the value of positions and the work done within them, and the lack of a uniform basis for determining wages in many organizations. For example, in 2015, more than three quarters of organizations had not conducted job evaluations. At the same time, according to the numbers of the latest Eurobarometer gender equality study, 57 percent of Estonian employees are in favor of publishing average wages by gender and position within their organization.

The Estonian government found that when it comes to agreeing on wage transparency measures, it is important to take into consideration that different sized organizations have different opportunities and capabilities for implementing these measures. Also to be assessed are the burdens and costs associated with these activities as well as the cost-benefit ratio thereof. It is especially important that requirements imposed on micro and small organizations are not disproportionately burdensome, the ministry said.

"At the same time, there are such measures for increasing wage transparency that are possible to implement regardless of organizations size, such as the publishing of wages or wage ranges in job ads," Kiik cited as an example.

The government is of the position that states should be allowed to maintain discretion in the implementation of these measures and the organization of oversight thereof. Possible supervisory authorities in Estonia would include the gender equality and equal treatment commissioner and the Labor Inspectorate. The voluntary implementation of these measures should also be encouraged, and employers should be supported in the implementation thereof. The European Commission should support the development of digital tools that would help ensure the uniform quality of the implementation of these measures as well as reduce administrative burden, the ministry said.

The consultation aimed at EU member states aims to collect feedback regarding opportunities for increasing wage transparency. The European Commission intends to unveil a proposal for a legislative initiative on wage transparency by the end of the year.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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