Belgium closes gender pay gap to 4.5% but gender inequality remains high

Belgium closes gender pay gap to 4.5% but gender inequality remains high

Diegem, 8th of March 2024 - Belgium’s gender pay gap is steadily closing, narrowing the difference in female pay to 4.5% compared to 5% in 2021.  PwC’s latest Women in Work Index shows progress towards gender parity is still too slow; it will take more than half a century to close the gender pay gap at the current rate of change. “While Belgian companies may be slowly closing the pay gap, the challenges for women in our labour market remain high. It’s not only about equally rewarding the workforce but also about offering flexibility and creating an inclusive work organisation,” says PwC Belgium Chairman, Axel Smits. 

To mark International Women’s Day 2024, PwC traditionally releases the Women in Work Index, which finds that global progress on achieving gender parity at work continues at a sluggish rate. Despite some progress over the past decade, this year’s analysis shows there is still a considerable way to go to reach gender parity at work across all five indicators tracked. Over the last decade, the average Index score increased from 56.3 in 2011 to 68 in 2022. Belgium ranks 13th this year, falling two places compared to the previous edition. Luxembourg, Iceland and Slovenia top the ranking, while Chile, Korea, and Mexico are at the bottom.

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Between 2021 and 2022, the majority of the improvement across the OECD was driven by an increase in the female labour force participation rate and a fall in the female unemployment rate. However, the average gender pay gap across the OECD widened from 13.2% to 13.5% over this period. This shows that despite greater participation, women remain in a considerably weaker position in terms of labour market returns as compared to men. Since the inception of the Index in 2011, the gender pay gap has been one of the indicators with the slowest improvement, narrowing only three percentage points between 2011 and 2022 across the OECD. 

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Axel Smits, Chairman, PwC Belgium, states: “I truly believe that inclusion matters in driving progress towards gender parity. While Belgian companies may be slowly closing the pay gap, the challenges for women in our labour market remain high. It’s not only about equally rewarding the workforce but also about offering flexibility and creating an inclusive work organisation.

Over the past 10 years, female employment in Belgium has risen by 5%. 

With a steady decline in the gender pay gap over the years, Belgium holds on to its 3rd place in the pay gap ranking among the 33 OECD countries. Only Luxembourg (-0.2%) and Greece (1.1%) perform better than Belgium (4.5%). Korea is at the bottom, with a gender pay gap of 31.2%. "Clearly, there is a rising awareness of the need to equally recognise and reward women in both Belgium and around the world. The introduction of the EU Pay Transparency Directive is a positive step towards reducing the gender pay gap in the years to come. However, it’s crucial to remember that statistics alone do not provide the complete picture. The percentage of the pay gap merely scratches the surface, and it’s essential to delve deeper into the issue to identify and eliminate all obstacles that hinder the progress of women in the labour market.” says Aurore Zadeling, PwC Belgium’s equal pay expert. 

While Belgium performs well in terms of eliminating the gender pay gap, its scores on other indicators are only average or even worse, placing it lower in the rankings. Particularly in female labour market participation, Belgium performs poorly, with only 68.8% of women active in the workforce. Given the overall low labour market participation and high unemployment rates for both men and women, this is not surprising. However, female labour market participation is increasing, growing by 1.1% in 2022 compared to 2021. 

Diverse and flexible working atmosphere 

In addition to low labour market participation, women in Belgium are less likely to work full time compared to other countries. Only 73.1% work full time, compared to 91.9% of men. Both indicators highlight a dysfunction in our labour market, whereby Belgium appears to be failing to motivate women to take on (full-time) roles in the workforce. PwC Belgium calls for a change in behaviour and mentality towards women in the workplace that goes beyond eliminating the pay gap or breaking the glass ceiling. 

Serafine Vandebuerie, Partner and HR expert at PwC Belgium, explains: “To truly address inequality the work organisation must be truly tailored to women. It is clear that flexibility, more attention to work-life balance, as well as medical elements such as the impact of menopause, need to be taken into account in these new working environments. Apart from creating a more flexible labour market, the government has more major challenges on its to-do list to offer women equal opportunities in our society. Think of affordable and high-quality childcare, but also a better public transportation network or better distribution of service opening hours. Actions in those areas will benefit both women and society, with higher labour market participation, less fall-out and increased full-time employment.

About PwC’s OECD Women in Work Index

The PwC Women in Work Index combines five key indicators of female economic empowerment in 2022 across 33 OECD countries. The five indicators that make up the PwC Women in Work Index are: the gender wage gap, the female labour force participation rate, the gap between male and female labour force participation, the female unemployment rate and female full-time employment rate. The annual Women in Work Index uses OECD data (actuals) for calendar year 2022.

Read PwC’s Women in Work Index for more insights.

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Press contact

Erik Oosthuizen, External Communications Manager ([email protected], +32 474 56 42 76)

Tess Minnens, External Communications Manager ([email protected], +32 497 38 34 31)

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© 2024 PwC. All rights reserved.

About PwC Belgium

Building trust and delivering sustained outcomes

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 151 countries with more than 364,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us  what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.

© 2023 PwC. All rights reserved.

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