With International Women’s Day just behind us, Germany’s Equal Pay Day is coming up. What does Equal Pay Day actually mean? When is it observed in other countries? And how do German women fare compared to their British sisters? If you believe all human beings should be treated equally, this treat’s for you.

According to Wikipedia, Equal Pay Day is ‘the symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap’. The gender pay gap is the difference between what an average man and an average woman earn in a specific country.

Equal Pay Day (EPD) is observed in many countries throughout the world, but its date varies not only due to differences in the actual pay gap but also because calculation methods differ.

In some countries, EPD marks the day until which an average woman would have to keep working for the same earnings as an average man from the previous year. In other countries, it is the date on which an average man could stop working and still earn the same as women who keep working until the end of the (fiscal) year.

It has become customary to carry a red purse or wear red clothes on Equal Pay Day, which symbolises being (financially) ‘in the red’.

This year, 17 March marks the day up to which the average woman in Germany would have to work to earn the same as the average man for the year 2019. This translates into a gender pay gap of a whopping 21%. And what’s German women’s position in relation to other countries in the world?

The UK had its 2019 Equal Pay Day on 14 November – why is that? Well, in the UK, Equal Pay Day is held on the day of the year that men could stop working and still earn the same as women who keep working until 31st December.

Here’s a table to give you an idea of the gender pay gap in different countries and its development over the past 10 years.

Country Equal Pay Day Gender Pay Gap 2019 Gender Pay Gap 2009
Germany 17 March 2020 21% 23%
UK 14 November 2019 13.1% 20.1%
Australia 28 August 2020 (Fiscal year ends on 30 June) 14% 13.05%
EU 27 February 2020 16% 17%
USA 31st March 2020 (different formula to calculate the date) 21% (in the USA, this is often expressed as ‘79 cents for every dollar earned by men’) 22% (‘78 cents for every dollar’)
India ? (Let me know!) 19% 35.3%

Sources: https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Arbeit/Arbeitsmarkt/Qualitaet-Arbeit/Dimension-1/gender-pay-gap.html; https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/datasets/annualsurveyofhoursandearningsashegenderpaygaptables; https://cms.qut.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/415344/gender-equity-report.pdf; https://www.equalpayday.be/europa/; https://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/archives/ebs/ebs_326_en.pdf; https://www.pay-equity.org/day.html; https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/news/2009/01/06/5460/wage-gap-by-the-numbers/; https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/gender-pay-gap-still-high-women-in-india-earn-19-pc-less-than-men-report/articleshow/68302223.cms; https://wageindicator.org/documents/publicationslist/publications-2013/gender-pay-gap-in-formal-sector-in-india-2006-2013 

Source: https://www.equalpayday.be/europa/
(where you can also find an overview of all EU countries)

According to Eurostat figures from 2018, the three EU countries with the smallest pay gap are Romania (3%), Luxembourg (4.6%) and Italy (5%), while awards for the three largest pension gaps go to – ironically – Luxembourg (43.3%), Malta (42.3%) and The Netherlands (39.6%). Germany ranks sixth with 37.4%, followed by the UK with 34.2%.

But now, let’s look at some uplifting examples of what we can do to change this.

In January 2020, BBC presenter Samira Ahmed won a lawsuit against the BBC, forcing the broadcaster to compensate her for paying her less than her male counterpart Jeremy Vine.

Pay gaps (also non-gender-based ones) exist across industries, including the entertainment industry. Famously, casts of popular TV series such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory have been reported to take pay cuts to make sure their co-stars are paid the same.

And finally, Iceland is a leading example of equal pay legislation. The small Nordic country passed a law in 2017, by which each company having more than 25 employees must comply with equal pay requirements, i.e. pay women and men the same.

Please post your positive examples below!

The Pommes Buddha says: Mind the gap!

Listen to this text as a podcast episode:

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