In line with the International Labour Organization’s Global Wage Report 2016/2017, the 2017 National Salary Structure Survey finds that, in Spain, women earn an average of €20,051.58 per year, compared to the €25,992.76 average salary for men. In other words, on average, women earn 77.1% of what their male counterparts do. Moreover, in 2017, 18.2% of women earned less than or below the minimum wage, compared to 7.4% of men. This data clearly reveals that the much-talked-about gender pay gap does indeed exist.

Since the pay gap means that women’s salaries are below those of men, female workers are paying less into social security coffers. This, in turn, leads to unbalanced pension payments and other benefits. There have been no solid explanations to justify this unequal treatment.

Although the gender pay gap is certainly a hot topic these days, it is important to remember that it is a multi-layered inequality that goes beyond the simple fact that women earn less than men: it also affects other spheres in the employment arena, as noted in the fact that far more women are unemployed than men. The inequality also appears as other obstacles women face throughout their working lives, such as access to jobs and promotions, among others.

Against this backdrop, a legislative bill on the gender pay gap has come before parliament. Under the bill, those companies that unjustifiably apply different treatment to men and women in comparable situations could be fined or otherwise penalized.

Without getting into the well-worn political debate as to whether or not additional equality measures should be adopted or, specifically, what the content of the new equality bill should be, or whether social dialog is the best forum for the matter, one clear fact is that several European countries have already approved measures to reduce the pay gap. In particular, Germany has passed a law to increase transparency in salary structures, under which the salaries of men carrying out the same work as women can be disclosed. In Iceland, companies with 25 workers or more are required to certify equality in their salary practices.

In Spain, the government proposed several amendments to the Workers’ Statute in order to adopt specific measures toward pay equality. These measures include amendment of article 26 to encourage medium and large companies to audit their salary practices, to push companies to disclose a gender-based breakdown of compensation components and amounts for jobs of equivalent value, and to amend the rules on registering and filing collective labor agreements so companies would to be required to place their salary equality plans on record.

In light of the above, and despite the celebration of Equal Pay Day on February 22 and International Women’s Day on March 8, only time will tell whether the proposed measures will be put into place, whether they will truly help close the gender pay gap, or whether all these efforts will end up as nothing more than good intentions.


Laura García Gordo 

Garrigues Labor and Employment Law Department