Men are paid 19.5% more in wages than women in Britain, but the gap between the sexes is getting smaller in Europe

Male workers in the UK are being paid 19.5% more than their female colleagues but the overall pay gap across Europe is coming down, new research suggests.

The European Commission's statistics show that although the gap in pay between men and women workers is improving across the continent, it is thought to be due to a decline in men's earnings rather than a rise in women's wages.

The average pay gap stands at 16.2% across Europe, compared to 17.5% three years before, with the UK's figure of 19.5% the eighth largest in the 27 member states, well behind Estonia (28%) at the top of the list but ahead of Slovenia (0.9%) at the bottom. The gap in pay in Ireland amounts to 13.9%.

The 16.2% gap is the equivalent of women working 59 more days a year than men doing similar jobs.

Viviane Reding, EU Justice and Fundamental Rights Commissioner, said that despite an overall slight downward trend, the gap in pay between males and females in employment was still considerable and could be largely put down to men losing money during the economic downturn - rather than women managing to gain it.

It is thought that lower wages and job losses in the recession-hit, male-dominated construction and engineering industries have combined to keep men's average earnings down.

The commissioner said it was time that the principle of "equal pay for equal work" that had been included in EU Treaties since 1957 was adhered to right across Europe.

The commission wants to support employers in their efforts to tackle the gender pay gap and best practice on equal pay is to be shared by representatives of more than 150 firms when they meet in Brussels soon.

A report on changing EU rules and how firms can introduce "gender-neutral job evaluation and job classification systems" is expected to follow in the summer and the EU is also pushing the governments of its member states to establish national equal pay days to show how pay could and should be the same for male and female workers.

Copyright Press Association 2013