The gender pay gap in Ireland is getting slightly worse, according to new figures published yesterday.
Those figures show that men earned 13.9pc more than women in 2010 while men earned 12.6pc more the previous year. The figure is stark but it is not as bad as the 17.3pc gap that existed in 2007.
The average gap is 16.2pc, which means Ireland is doing better than most other countries. The figure has not moved an inch in the space of a year although the trend is that the gap is narrowing.
"With laws guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, equality in the workplace and minimum rights to maternity leave, gender equality is a European achievement," EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said yesterday.
"But there is still a way to go to full gender equality. The pay gap is still large and it is not budging. To make things worse: much of the change actually resulted from a decline in men's earnings rather than an increase for women," she added.
The report predicts that the main challenge for all EU states will be the correct application and enforcement of the rules established by the 2006 Equality Directive.
The commission has launched infringement cases against 23 member states, including Ireland, regarding the way these states transposed a number of EU gender equality laws. All but one of these cases has been closed. Only France and the Netherlands have sufficiently and clearly transposed specifically the 2006 Equality Directive in such a way that no further information is required from them.
So what could Ireland do to make things better?
While clearly unhappy with what is happening in many other countries, the commission has a few suggestions.
It likes a law passed in the Belgian parliament last year obliging companies to carry out a comparative analysis of their wage structure every two years. Belgium, incidentally, was also the first EU country to organise an Equal Pay Day (in 2005).
It also likes a law dating back to 2006 in France which requires companies to report on salaries and their plans to close the gender pay gap. Significantly, the law also requires employers to produce a written annual report on gender equality and submit it to workers' representatives.
Another piece of legislation that meets with commission approval is the Austrian Equal Treatment Act, which obliges companies to draw up equal pay reports. The rules being phased in gradually are now compulsory for companies with over 250, 500 and 1,000 employees. Companies with more than 150 employees will have to produce a report from 2014.
Expect something similar here if that gap keeps getting wider rather than narrowing.