Germany has the biggest gender pay gap in Western Europe

The greatest pay-disparity in Western Europe occurs in Germany where women executives are paid 22% less than the total compensation of their male counterparts, according to research by Mercer.

This is compared to a gap of 9% in the UK.

The research, which analysed the pay of 264,000 senior managers and executives in 5,321 organisations across 41 European countries, found that Germany was followed by Austria, which has a gender pay gap of 20%, Sweden (-19%), Spain and Greece (both -18%), France and the Netherlands (both -14%), Denmark (-12%), Ireland (-10%), Italy, Finland, UK and Portugal (-9%), Norway (-8%), Switzerland (-7%) and Belgium (-6%).

Of the 269 employers and more than 15,300 employees analysed in the UK, the typical total cash salary, which comprises base salary and any additional cash awards such as bonus payments, for women was £93,434. This was around £10,000 less than their male counterparts, who earned an average of £103,230.

The research also found:

  • Central and Eastern Europe: Women in Bulgaria receive 5% more in total compensation than their male peers, while women in the Russian Federation receive around 3% more. 
  • Women in Lithuania received 18% less than their male counterparts followed by Romania (-14%), Hungary (-13%), Serbia (-12%), Slovakia (-11%), Poland (-10%), with the Czech Republic and Ukraine both showing -5%.
  • Middle East and Africa: Across the six countries with an acceptable sample base to draw comparisons, women were paid less in terms of total compensation than their male counterparts in Morocco (-15%), the United Arab Emirates (-12%), and Turkey (-1%). 
  • In Qatar, women were paid 38% less than men while figures for Saudi Arabia were not available given the lack of female executives.

Sophie Black, principal in Mercer’s executive remuneration team, said: “Simple discrimination on pay is often the reason behind salary differences, but there are other factors at play here.

“Women, more than men, tend to move in and out of the workforce often due to childcare responsibilities. Many women have to take part-time work to balance competing family and financial demands. This has a huge impact, not only on the numbers of women in senior positions but also on their earning-power. 

“A woman may be paid less than her male peers because the five years she spent off the corporate ladder represents, in the eyes of her employer, five years less experience.

“Part-time workers tend to earn less than their permanent colleagues and are often perceived as less loyal and committed. This can lead to lost promotional opportunities and pay rises. 

“This is a cultural issue and is still a hurdle that many women need to overcome in numerous firms today, even those organisations, which, on the surface, appear to encourage part-time work as part of their gender diversity programmes.”

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