Who Is Closing The Gender Pay Gap Fastest In Europe?

Where will European women reach equal pay first?

The Gender Pay Gap between men and women across the EU currently stands at around 17%. This figure does vary by country with many nations making making headway in closing the gap, but the fact it remains is still cause for concern.

This research project looks at economic gender inequality across Europe and identifies the fastest routes to equal pay for women in the EU.


  1. Methodology
  2. Which EU nation will close the gender pay gap first?
  3. EU gender pay gap overview (table)
  4. Research breakdown
    1. Full-time vs. Part-time employment
    2. Public sector vs. Private sector employment
    3. Age group
    4. Industry
    5. Job type
  5. Sources


Using the latest European Union data, Expert Market examined and interpreted existing gender pay gap trends across five key economic markers:

  • Full-time vs. Part-time employment
  • Public sector vs. Private sector employment
  • Age group
  • Industry
  • Job type

By working out the average year-on-year change in the gender pay gap, we were able to model future trends and identify the quickest potential pay gap closure dates for each economic marker in each EU nation.

For each country we took the earliest pay gap closure date in each economic marker, added them together and worked out the average gender pay gap closure date.

This average pay gap closure date not only indicates how soon pay parity may occur by nation, but also highlights the specific criteria and employment scenarios that could see the gender pay gap close sooner for some women than others.

Below is an infographic breaking down the top 10 pay gap closing countries as well as a table detailing our findings for the rest of Europe. We’ve also included detailed breakdowns of the data used as well as links to our sources.

Which EU Nation Will Close The Gender Pay Gap First?

EU Gender Pay Gap Overview

The table below shows the final standings for the whole of the EU:

RankCountryFull or Part Time?Public or Private Sector?Age GroupIndustryJob TypeAverage Pay Gap Closure
1.RomaniaPrivate (2018)25-34 (2018)Food & Accommodation (2017)Skilled Manual (2018)2018
2.PolandFull Time (2021)Public (2018)45-54 (2017)Food & Accommodation (2019)Service & Sales (2017)2018
3.BelgiumFull Time (Closed)Private (2029)25-34 (2019)Public Admin / Government (2019)Clerical Support (2017)2020
4.IcelandPart Time (Closed)Public (2021)Under 25 (2017)Electricity / Gas / Energy (2022)Clerical Support (2025)2020
5.NetherlandsPart Time (Closed)Public (2030)25-34 (2018)Electricity / Gas / Energy (2018)Basic Manual (2021)2020
6.SloveniaPrivate (2034)65+ (2020)Public Admin / Government (2018)Managerial or Technical (2017)2022
7.LithuaniaFull Time (2029)Private (2028)Under 25 (2022)Electricity / Gas / Energy or Arts / Entertainment (2020)Service & Sales (2017)2023
8.ItalyPublic (2024)55-64 (2030)Education (2020)Managerial (2020)2024
9.SwedenPart Time (2022)Public (2035)Under 25 (2035)Public Admin / Government (2017)Skilled Manual (2017)2025
10.LuxembourgFull Time (2025)Private (2051)35-44 (2017)Education (2019)Professional Role (2020)2026
11.Rep of IrelandPublic (2034)35-44 (2039)Education (2023)Service & Sales (2017)2028
12.CyprusFull Time (2035)Private (2049)Under 25 & 35-44 (2021)Human Health / Social Work (2017)Service & Sales (2028)2029
13.SpainPart Time (2022)Private (2062)25-34 (2025)Public Admin / Government (2021)Elementary occupations (2017)2029
14.FinlandPart Time (2034)Private (2064)Under 25 (2022)Water / Waste Management (2020)Professional Role (2017)2031
15.Czech RepublicPublic (2062)25-34 (2028)Public Admin / Government (2022)Managerial (2017)2032
16.NorwayFull Time (2043)Private (2056)Under 25 (2021)Electricity / Gas / Energy (2026)Service & Sales (2018)2033
17.AustriaPart Time (2028)Private (2059)55-64 (2043)Food & Accommodation (2026)Service & Sales (2022)2036
18.Switzerland35-44 (2081)Transportation / Storage (2022)Service & Sales (2017)2040
19.SlovakiaFull Time (2096)Public (2038)25-34 (2029)Real Estate / Scientific (2036)Professional or Technical Role (2017)2042
20.FrancePart Time (2044)Private (2070)25-34 (2072)Food & Accommodation (2025)Clerical Support (2017)2046
21.GermanyFull Time (2075)Public (2052)Real Estate (2030)Managerial (2026)2046
22.LatviaPart Time (2130)Private (2070)55-64 (2041)Construction / Information & Comms (2017)Clerical Support / Service & Sales (2017)2049
23.DenmarkPart Time (2152)Public (2038)25-34 (2038)Transportation / Storage (2025)Clerical Support (2017)2054
24.United KingdomPart Time (2031)Private (2121)35-44 (2124)Food & Accommodation (2030)Service & Sales (2031)2067
25.PortugalPart Time (2031)35-44 (2182)Real Estate (2018)Clerical Support (2017)2068
26.HungaryFull Time (2248)Public (2030)55-64 (2027)Electricity / Gas /Energy (2019)Professional / Technical role (2017)2068

Note: Insufficient data available for Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Greece or Malta.


In this section you’ll find individual breakdowns of the data used in this research.

Full-time v Part-time employment

Key takeaways

Full-time employment:

  • Fastest closing pay gap: Poland (2021)
  • Slowest closing pay gap: Hungary (2248)

Part-time employment:

  • Fastest closing pay gap: Belgium (2018)
  • Slowest closing pay gap: Denmark (2152)

Looking at the gender pay gap by employment type produces a wide spread of results across the continent, with women working part-time roles more likely to see the gender pay gap close sooner than those working in full-time employment.

However, while fewer countries are heading towards pay parity for full-time employees, some nations – including Luxembourg and Italy – have already closed the gender pay gap for women working full-time. In fact, Italy emerges as the only EU nation to have closed the pay gap in both full and part-time employment with women earning on average slightly more than their male counterparts.

The most surprising finding was that the gender pay gap in both full and part-time employment is actually increasing for women in a number of countries, including Ireland, Latvia and Portugal. The poor showing from the Republic of Ireland was a particular surprise as the country performed well enough in every other area to make it into the top 10 of the overall rankings.

On the other hand, in what might be seen as a hollow victory, Hungary has the slowest closing full-time employment pay gap in Europe, with women not set to reach pay parity until the year 2248.

Near the top of the table, Belgium proved the most consistent nation with potential pay gap closures in the next year or so for women in both full-time and part-time employment. Belgium’s strong showing was only bettered by the Netherlands, whose women reached pay parity for part-time employment back in 2014.

Public sector v Private sector employment

Key takeaways

Public sector employment:

  • Fastest closing pay gap: Poland (2018)
  • Slowest closing pay gap: Czech Republic (2062)

Private sector employment:

  • Fastest closing pay gap: Romania (2018)
  • Slowest closing pay gap: United Kingdom (2121)

It’s clear from our findings that women working in the public sector are more likely to see pay gap closure within their lifetimes than women working in the private sector. Yet, despite the generally faster rate of closure there were fewer nations overall who recorded decreasing pay gaps in the public sector, with women in only 12 countries likely to see pay parity.

This may be attributable to cuts in public spending among many EU nations in recent years. However, on a more positive note, both Cyprus and Luxembourg have closed the public sector pay gap for women according to our findings.

While much slower to close, a much greater proportion of EU nations are showing improvements in closing the private sector gender pay gap. Romania tops the list with a potential closure date in 2018, while women in only three more countries (Iceland, Lithuania and Belgium) will see closure within the next 20 years.

On the other hand, while their pay gap might be closing, women in the U.K. and Germany will be waiting more than 100 years for pay parity – yet this is only a third of the time Slovakian women will need to wait, with their gender pay gap estimated to close around 2340.

Age group

Key takeaways


  • Fastest closing pay gap:
    • Iceland (Under 25) (2017)
    • Luxembourg (35-44) (2017)
    • Poland (45-54) (2017)
  • Slowest closing pay gap: Portugal (35-44) (2182)

When looking at the EU gender pay gap by age group, it becomes clear that it is younger women who will see the pay gap close first in the vast majority of countries, with women up to the age of 34 set to benefit the quickest. This is somewhat unsurprising as women in this age bracket are in their peak economic years and will be seeing the benefits of previous generational drives for equality.

This generational divide may account for the skewing of some countries towards quicker pay gap closure for women aged 55+. In particular, Austria, Hungary, Italy and Latvia all show trends implying that older women (55-64) will reach pay parity quicker than younger women.

It is also worthwhile highlighting that each of these nations also possesses a lower labour force participation rate for women compared to other EU countries, with individuals seeking work overseas or not working at all. The lack of a younger workforce could potentially account for the trends we see within different age groups.

It’s also interesting to note that there is a leaning towards Eastern European countries when looking at gender pay gaps by age, as besides Hungary and Latvia, it is Polish women aged 45-54 who are set to reach pay parity before any other age group, while in Slovenia it is women aged 65 and over who will be the first to close the pay gap.

Again, we could assume migratory reasons as the underlying cause in these countries with younger, more economically mobile, women moving elsewhere in search of better opportunities.

A similar trend emerges when looking at younger age groups, with Nordic countries – or those traditionally associated with Scandinavian-style socialism (e.g. Iceland) – offering women aged 25 or under the quickest routes to equal pay. In fact, women currently aged under 25 in Finland, Iceland and Norway (as well as Cyprus and Lithuania) will see the pay gap close by the early 2020’s if not before.

Central Europe offers the quickest routes to pay gap closure for women aged 25-34, with very early potential closure dates in both theNetherlands and Belgium. Despite being the most common age group to see pay gap closure first, the data does caveat this with women in this age group having to wait longer for equal pay than other age groups in other countries.


Key takeaways


  • Fastest closing pay gap:
    • Romania (Accommodation/Food) (2017)
    • Latvia (Transport/Storage) (2017)
    • Cyprus (Human Health/Social) (2017)
    • Sweden (Public Admin) (2017)
  • Slowest closing pay gap: Slovakia (Real Estate) (2036)

When looking at the European gender pay gap by industry, it became clear that jobs within two specific sectors offered women the fastest route to pay gap closure, these were Public Administration (or working for the government) and jobs in the Electricity, Gas and Energy sector. These two industries accounted for almost a third of the nations sampled in this research.

While both sectors offer quick routes to pay parity for women, the data indicated that working for the government offered faster returns, with women in Sweden, Slovenia, Belgium, Spain and the Czech Republic all set to close the gap by 2022 at the latest.

The industries offering the second most potential to women were the Food & Accommodation services (or hospitality) industry and the Real Estate industry. It might be of interest to note that two of the quickest closing pay gaps in Europe – Romania and Poland – both scored highest in the hospitality industry.

This may be attributable to gender stereotypes still proving prevalent among Eastern European countries as to what constitutes ‘traditional’ female work. This is further reinforced by the slow rate of pay gap closure in more traditionally-masculine, high earning roles within I.T. and Finance.

Of all the potential closure dates, Slovakia has the slowest pay gap closure by industry, with women working in Real Estate or aTechnical/Scientific capacity set to reach pay parity first – albeit in 2036. Germany and the U.K. had the next slowest pay gap closures, with women set to see pay gap closure around 2030. However, these were, somewhat ironically, in two of the more progressive industries (Real Estate and Food/Accommodation respectively).

Job type

Key takeaways


  • Fastest closing pay gap:
    • Lithuania (Professional Roles) (2017)
    • Finland (Professional Roles) (2017)
    • Sweden (Skilled Manual) (2017)
  • Slowest closing pay gap: United Kingdom (Service & Sales) (2031)

Note: This data shows the difference in euros between the mean (average) male hourly pay and mean (average) female hourly pay by job type across four broad sectors of the economy. Where the figure is negative, this indicates how much more women earn than men per hour.

The data revealed a number of EU-wide trends regarding the gender pay gap by job type, most notably that the gap is closing quickest for women working in Sales and Service roles. Behind this, the jobs that offered women the quickest routes to pay parity were Professional/Technical roles or Clerical Support roles. When crossed across the rest of the collated data, it also emerged that the countries ranking highest for these job types also had pay gaps that were closing quicker for private sector employees than for public sector employees.

This suggests a narrative that by reducing public spending, countries are inadvertently slowing the closure of the gender pay gap by forcing women to seek work with private employers – who, as evidenced above, are making much slower headway in establishing equal pay rates between men and women.

One might expect to see a slower rate of pay gap closure for women working in more senior roles as this is traditionally where the gender pay gap is biggest, yet the data showed that it didn’t matter too much what the job role was, but rather the sector women worked in that had more of an impact on how quickly the pay gap was closing.

We can tell this because women working Managerial or Professional/Technical roles made up seven of the top twelve quickest closing pay gaps by job type, with Slovenia and the Czech Republic offering almost imminent closure dates for their female managers (albeit dependent on industry).In terms of overall pay gap closure, the most progressive nations were Lithuania and Latvia, whose women could see the gender pay gap close equally quickly in a number of different jobs, namely the previously identified ‘best performing’ Sales/Services and Professional/Technical job roles.

Of the poorest performing nations, it is the United Kingdom that sticks out with a slow rate of pay gap closure plaguing jobs of all levels across most industries. Even the most optimistic of potential closure rates saw women working in Britain not set to close the gender pay gap until 2031 even when working a Sales or Service role.

Unfortunately this only serves to reinforce and underline the U.K.’s poor overall showing in almost every category of the research, with only Portugal and Hungary sitting lower in the overall rankings.


All data interpreted by Expert Market from a combination of the following sources: