Editorial: Estonia needs to stop ignoring its gender pay gap

According to Eurostat, Estonia has the biggest gender pay gap of all European countries, with Estonian women effectively working for free since 23 September.

For many years, Estonia has had the largest gender pay gap in the European Union. On average, women in Estonia earn just 73 per cent of what men make working in the same position. And despite the fact that this issue is brought up again and again, very little has been done to alleviate it.

Finding a solution to this problem is in the hands of the national government and society at large – it’s not alright to discriminate women and measures need to be taken to deal with the issue.

Solving starts with acknowledging the problem. Currently, the gender gap issues have largely been ignored in the Estonian society or even ridiculed by some opinion leaders and some in the media. It is important to raise awareness that equal pay and equal representation of women in key positions is a sign of a mature and a democratic society.

Increasingly, Estonia is striving to become a similar to Nordic countries – Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. If that’s the aim, then there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to gender equality – it’s enough if Estonians just studied how its Northern neighbours have achieved it.

For example, Sweden’s Discrimination Act requires that all employers must actively pursue specific goals to promote equality between men and women. Employers are expected to equalise and prevent differences in pay and other terms of employment between women and men who perform work which is to be regarded as equal or of equal value.

Sweden also requires employers to carry out a pay survey every three years in order to detect, remedy and prevent unjustified differences between women and men’s pay, terms and conditions of employment, and draw up an equal pay action plan, if employing 25 or more workers.

True, the history of ensuring gender equality in Sweden goes back almost a century, but it is our task to catch up. Estonia has made a great leap economically in the last 26 years – now it’s time to achieve social cohesion too. This does not mean compromising on business success – quite the opposite, in fact. The more members of the society feel included, the more content they are, the less likely would they emigrate. Although no research has been conducted so far, private conversations reveal there are a number of highly educated, ambitious Estonian women who have chosen to leave the country simply because they were not promoted or paid well enough in their homeland.

Estonian World argues that Estonia needs to send out a signal that the country is in the 21st century not only for digital solutions, but for gender equality too.


Cover: An Estonian woman in Kadriorg (photo by Tajo Oja/the image is illustrative).

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