The difference in pay between the sexes was wider for women who were better educated, a public discussion on the gender pay gap heard last week.

Official data presented by National Statistics Office manager Joslyn Magro indicated that women educated at the tertiary level were more likely to be paid less for equal work than women with basic or secondary education. Female employees with tertiary education were likely to earn 18.7 per cent less than similar males.

The event, also attended by Nationalist MEPs Francis Zammit Dimech and Roberta Metsola, was told that the gender pay gap in 2014 had risen from 10.3 per cent for women with a basic education and from 12 per cent for women with a secondary to post-secondary education.

A new study is expected to be conducted this year.

Almost 60 per cent of the island’s graduates were female, and more women than men have graduated from the University of Malta since 1997, Ms Magro noted.

Top positions are dominated by men, as are 66 per cent of academic positions at the university

Top positions were dominated by men, as were 66 per cent of academic positions at the university, she added.

WATCH: The ever-present reality of the geder pay gap (ARTE)

The gender pay gap also increased with age, Ms Magro said. It stood at 32.6 per cent for those aged 55-64 in 2014. In comparison, the gender pay gap for those aged between 15 and 24 stood at 7.5 per cent.

The smaller the enterprise, the wider the pay gap. Ms Magro said companies with more than 250 employees had a gender pay gap of 8.6 per cent and it rose to 13.7 per cent in workforces ranging from 10 to 49 employees.

Dr Zammit Dimech said the topic of the gender pay gap was very much at the top of the European Parliament’s agenda, noting that the “key to improvement lies in transparency”.

He referred to eight key factors of the EU’s action plan on the issue, which, among other elements, laid stress on the importance of providing employees with the right to access to information.

There was a “culture of secrecy” that made women afraid to speak out on abuse and unfair practices in the workplace, Dr Metsola noted.

Her comments were echoed by participants from the National Council of Women, which offers training courses to enable women to return to work.

Dr Metsola noted that employers resisted regulatory change, adding that Malta should “live up to its legal obligations and report regularly on the gender pay gap”.

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