The National:

ROMANIA has the lowest gender pay gap in EU countries at just 3%, according to a new report from the European Parliament.

However, the document also showed that the gap is widest in Estonia, at 22.7%.

The paper comes ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, in the year that also marks a quarter century since the adoption of the UN’s Beijing Declaration, which was aimed at the advancement of women around the globe.

Britain is no longer included in such publications from Europe, but figures show Scotland’s gender pay gap for full-time employees decreased to 5.7% in 2018 from 6.6% the year before, while the UK’s was 8.9%.

Such a figure would put Scotland firmly in the top five in Europe, alongside Romania, Luxembourg (4.6%), Italy (5%) and Belgium (6%).

At the bottom of the table, Germany ranks second worst after Estonia at 20.9%, followed by the Czech Republic (20.1%), Austria (19.6%) and Slovakia (19.4%).

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The European Parliament said progress has been made, but inequality between men and women persisted, including in the labour market. It said EU women earned on average almost 15% less per hour than men, with big differences between individual EU member states.

However, it cautioned that a narrower pay gap did not necessarily mean more gender equality, and it often happened in countries with lower female employment.

It said a high pay gap could indicate that women were more concentrated in lower-paid sectors or that a significant proportion of them worked part-time.

The National: EU Commission for Values and Transparency Vice President Vera JourovaEU Commission for Values and Transparency Vice President Vera Jourova

According to the paper, an important reason for the gender pay gap is the over-representation of women in relatively low paying sectors and underrepresentation in those that were higher paid. It also meant women were at higher risk of poverty in old age.

As an example, it said on average in the EU in 2018, there were more male than female scientists and engineers – 59% compared to 41%. Women also held only a third of managerial positions in the EU.

In an earlier report Vera Jourova, the EU Commissioner responsible for gender equality, said: “I am happy to see gender equality at the heart of the public debate and trust that we will continue to make progress towards true equality between men and women in Europe.”