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Germany failed to make progress in closing its yawning gender pay gap last year with women still earning 21 percent less than male colleagues, official data showed Thursday, giving the country one of the worst records in Europe. Female employees earned on average 16.59 euros ($20.5) gross per hour in 2017 compared with 21 euros for men, the federal statistics office Destatis said, the same 21-percent difference as the year before. The figures were released ahead of Germany's Equal Pay Day on March 18, calculated as the day until which women symbolically work for free each year before they start earning the same as men. Germany is one of the biggest sinners on equal pay in the European Union, where women on average earn 16 percent less than their male peers. Only Germany, Britain, the Czech Republic, Austria and Estonia recorded wage gaps above 20 percent in 2016, the bloc's statistics agency Eurostat reported last week. The best performers were Romania, Italy and Luxembourg with gaps of around five percent. As part of its efforts to tackle the imbalance, Germany in January introduced new legislation that gives women the right to know how their salary compares to that of a group of male colleagues in the same job.
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The hope is that more transparency will reveal whether women are paid less -- and bolster their demands for a rise or pave the way for possible legal action. Critics however complain that the law, which only applies to firms with more than 200 employees, will only foster workplace discontent as it doesn't force bosses to take action against wage discrepancies. Part of Germany's huge gender pay gap stems from the high number of women in lower-paying or part-time jobs, often for childcare reasons, and the fact that they are under-represented in senior positions. For women with the same qualifications doing the same work as men, the pay gap stands at around six percent.