EUROPE – The pension gap between men and women continues to widen in Europe, reaching more than 30% in most member states, the European Commission has warned.

In a study carried out on behalf of the EC, the European Network of Experts on Gender Equality (ENEGE) found that the gender pension gap (39%) was much wider than the gender pay gap (16.2%).

According to ENEGE, the pay gap is primarily due to the lower salary rate women receive on a per-hour basis, which is then amplified by the fact women work fewer hours per year.

Additionally, the study found women also worked fewer years due to career breaks and the tendency to retire earlier than men.

"This leads to a wider career earnings gap, which, when filtered by the pension system, ultimately results in the pensions gap," ENEGE said.

ENEGE went on to say that 17 member states had pension gaps greater or equal to 30%, while gender gaps in pensions appear to be widening in the EU as a whole, with a 5-percentage-point increase between 2005 and 2010.

The report follows on the recommendation made by the Council in December 2010 on "adequate, safe and sustainable pensions for all European citizens".

At the time, the Council called on the Commission and the 27 member states to take into consideration the "gender dimension" when dealing with the adequacy and sustainability of pensions.

The report also follows on from the adoption of the White Paper on Pensions in February last year, in which the Commission recognises that women are more likely to be poor in retirement than men.

The Commission also stressed in the white paper that women lived longer than men on average, tended to retire earlier and have more career breaks and were less likely to be covered by supplementary pensions than men.