Employment of older workers and gender equality

Across the EU, there is a large gender gap in employment between older female and older male workers. 
This gap is the result of the inequalities that women face throughout their lives.

The updated figures for 2018 are the same: the gender gap in employment rates is maintained at 13% for 55-64 year-olds vs.10.5% for 15-64 year-olds. The gender wage gap is also extremely high in old age: for example, in France, women between 55-64 earn 21% less than men when they are employed, compared to 8.5% for 25-34 year-olds. The same effect is seen in other EU countries.

These differences are linked to the disadvantages women face in their career throughout their working-age. Some of those disadvantages are specific to older women, e.g.:

  • In most EU member States, older women spend more hours caring for grandchildren and caring for family members older than 75 (Eurofound, European Quality of Life Survey 2016) than older men. Indeed, society still expects older women to provide informal care to people in need for care and assistance.
  • Additionally, pension ages for women remain lower than for men in some European member states – implicitly signalling that older women are not desired in the labour market. Reintroduction of different pension ages in some member states send worrying signal in this respect.
  • A larger proportion of older women of working age have left the labour market because of health issues or the belief that they would not be hired because of combined age and gender discrimination.

What is AGE doing?

  • We monitor the application of the non-discrimination directives: directive 2000/78 banning age discrimination in employment and directive 2006/54 on gender equality in employment.
  • We highlight the specific challenges of creating labour markets for older female workers in our annual contributions to the European Semester.
  • We actively take part in the European network of Diversity Charters, employer-driven campaigns in favour of employee diversity.
  • We regularly highlight the specific challenges in occupational health and safety concerning older women.
  • We called for a life-course perspective on equal pay in response to a Commission consultation in 2019.

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