Women’s World Cup 2023 – Equal Pay for Women in and Out of Sports

This year’s Women’s World Cup, which kicked off on July 20, 2023, has been drawing record viewers both in person and on television. As viewers watch these teams compete, many wonder whether these athletes receive pay equal to their male counterparts. The goal of this Insight is to examine pay treatment based on gender in countries with teams headed to the Round of 16.1  This article does not, however, address whether the members of each particular team are receiving the same pay and treatment as did their country's players in the Men’s World Cup. 

Switzerland v. Spain (Aug. 4)

Japan v. Norway (Aug. 5)

The Netherlands v. South Africa (Aug. 5)

Sweden v. United States (Aug. 6)

England v. Nigeria (Aug. 7)

Australia v. Denmark (Aug. 7)

Colombia v. Jamaica (Aug. 8)

France v. Morocco (Aug. 8)

United States

The landmark Equal Pay for Team USA Act (EPTUSA), which was signed into law in January 2023, requires that all athletes representing the United States in global athletic competitions, like the World Cup, Olympics & Paralympics, receive equal compensation and benefits in their sport, regardless of gender. It also requires equal payment for medical care, travel and expenses, remedying situations in the past, such as women’s teams flying in coach while their male counterparts were in business class.

Even before EPTUSA, the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 provided for equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender.  All forms of compensation are covered, including salary, overtime pay, accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits (including fringe benefits and other amenities). If there is an inequality in compensation between people of different genders who perform substantially equal jobs, employers must raise compensation to equalize pay (and may not reduce the compensation of higher-paid individuals to achieve pay equity).

Title VII also prohibits employers of 15 or more employees from discriminating against an individual in compensation based on gender. In addition, almost every state has a law addressing pay equity, many of which require equal pay for “substantially similar” or “comparable” work rather than “equal” work.


Australia has a number of laws relating to pay equity. Under Australia’s Fair Work Act 2009, the Fair Work Commission can make an equal remuneration order, which requires employees be given equal remuneration for work of “equal or comparable value.” An application for an equal remuneration order can be made by an employee, a union, or the Commission itself. The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022 amended the Fair Work Act to prohibit pay secrecy laws. The Workplace Gender Equality Act of 2012 established a Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) and required employers with more than 100 employees to file annual reports with the WGEA with “gender equality” information, including information about equal remuneration between women and men. Most recently, on March 30, 2023, the Australian Parliament passed the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Act 2023. The Act enables the WGEA to publish information about gender pay gaps in private and Commonwealth (i.e., federal government) companies and entities with more than 100 employees. Under the amended law, employers must collect more detailed information such as an employee’s age (year of birth), primary workplace location, and remuneration data for CEO or the equivalent. Additionally, employers must provide data on prevention and response to harassment on the grounds of sex or discrimination in the workplace.


Articles 10 and 143 of the Substantive Labor Code and Law 1496 of 2011, require equal pay between men and women for equal work, based on the principle of "equal work, equal pay, under the same conditions of efficiency." Although there is no legal obligation to report wage disparities between men and women, employees who believe they have been discriminated against in terms of wages may file a complaint before the Ministry of Labor or an ordinary lawsuit before the Labor Courts.


The Danish Equal Pay Act provides for equal pay for men and women for work “of the same value.” In 2006, the Danish Ministry of Employment introduced rules requiring companies with more than 35 employees to publicly disclose wage statistics between men and women with the same job if the company has more than 10 men and women working in the same position.   


The Equality Act 2010 provides that men and women be treated equally in pay and other benefits they receive for “like work,” work that is rated as “equivalent,” or work that is of “an equal value.” Regulations that came into force in 2017 also require employers with more than 250 employees to report annually on their “gender pay gap,” the pay differentials between men and women in average hourly pay. This data is published online and accessible to the general public.


France has legally required equal pay for equal work since enacting the 1972 Gender Equality Act. In addition, under a new law, The Professional Future Act, enacted in 2019, companies with more than 50 employees are required to use the Government’s Gender Equality Index to assess their gender pay gap and use corrective measures to achieve a target goal. The results must be published on the company’s website. Companies that do not achieve the target goal within three years will be charged a penalty of one per cent of the company’s payroll.


The Employment (Equal Pay for Men and Women) Act of 1975 provides for the payment of equal pay for equal work between male and female employees in the same establishment.


Japan’s Labor Standards Act prohibits gender discrimination in wages. In addition, revisions to the Act on Promotion of Women’s Participation and Advancement in the Workforce (APWPAW), which took effect in July 2022, require companies with 301 or more employees to disclose differences in pay between men and women as well as action plans for increasing opportunities for women and improving work/life balance. Companies with 101 to 300 employees need only formulate the action plans described above.


Article 346 of the 2003 labor code mandates equal pay for work of equal value.

The Netherlands

The Equal Treatment of Men and Women Act requires male and female employees receive equal pay for equal work. There are currently no mandatory pay equity reporting requirements in the Netherlands.  There is, however, pending legislation that would amend the Act to require that companies with 250 or more employees obtain a certificate of proof every three years attesting that women and men working in the same position, for the same number of hours, are paid equally. Companies with at least 50 employees would be required to include information regarding pay differences between women and men in comparable positions in company reports. In addition, employees of such companies would be able to request information on the salary of co-workers in similar positions. 


There is no specific Nigerian legislation on pay equity or transparency. However, Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prohibits the discrimination of persons on the grounds of sex, community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion, or political opinion. Section 17(3)(e) of the Constitution also provides that the state must ensure through its polices that “there is equal pay for equal work without discrimination on account of sex, or on any other ground whatsoever.”


The Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, which took effect in 2020, requires that men and women receive equal pay for equal work or work of equal value. Employees who suspect they have been discriminated against in pay may demand that the employer provide information about the salary level and criteria for determining the salary of the employees with whom the employee is making a comparison. In addition, employers with 50 or more employees must report annually on their progress toward achieving gender pay equity and gender equality. Companies that employ between 20 and 50 employees may decide to report voluntarily but would be required to do so if requested by employee representatives.

South Africa

The Employment Equity Act (EEA) provides for (a) equal pay for the same work; (b) equal pay for substantially the same work; and (c) equal pay for work of equal value.  The Act requires “designated employers” (currently employers with 50 or more employees) to report on the pay/remuneration and benefits received by employees in each occupational level of their workforce, by race and gender, with explanations for any pay differentials. Where there are disproportionate income differentials, or pay discrimination is detected, employers are required to take steps to progressively reduce these differentials.

The Code of Good Practice on Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value, issued in June 2015, provides practical guidance to determine the value of a job for the purpose of applying the principle of equal pay/remuneration for work of equal value including steps to be taken in a job evaluation process, and factors justifying differentiation in pay.


Article 14 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 forbids sex discrimination generally. Under Royal Decree Law 6/2019, companies must pay the same remuneration to employees, regardless of sex, for “work of equal value.”  In assessing “work of equal value” employers must consider “the nature of the functions or tasks actually entrusted; the educational, professional and training conditions required to perform it; the factors strictly related to its performance; and [whether] the working conditions in which those activities are actually performed are equivalent.” In 2020 Spain issued two additional royal decrees regarding wage equality: Equality Plan Decree (Royal Decree 901/2020) and Equal Pay Decree (Royal Decree 902/2020), establishing processes and practices to identify and correct gender discrimination in compensation, with penalties imposed for unequal treatment.  The laws also provide for legal action by employees to correct the situation.


Sweden’s Discrimination Act of 2008 prohibits discrimination based on sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation, or age. The act requires employers to take “active measures” to avoid discrimination and promote equal treatment.  As part of this requirement, employers with 25 or more employees must conduct annual pay surveys, identifying and analyzing practices regarding salary, including pay differences between women and men performing work that is regarded as equal or of equal value. If there are pay differences between women and men performing work that is equal or of equal value, the pay differences must be explained or adjusted. The documentation must contain the amount of the pay adjustments needed, any other measures that may be needed, and a timetable and cost calculation for the measures. 


The Swiss Constitution and the Gender Equality Act of 1996 provide for equal pay between men and women. The Act was revised in 2020 to require companies with 100 or more employees to conduct wage equality analyses and report the analyses to employees and shareholders. The first report was due at the end of June 2021. The analysis must be repeated and reported every four years unless the initial analysis “indicates that there is no inexplicable gap between employees of both sexes.”

Good luck to the teams!

See Footnotes

1 Most of the information provided in this Insight is from our Littler International Guide, which discusses more than 90 workplace law topics in over 45 countries/territories, including jurisdictions in every region of the world. For more information on the International Guide, please contact your Littler attorney or Knowledge Management Counsel Geida Sanlate.  Click here to subscribe to Littler’s Global Guide Quarterly, to receive labor and employment law updates from around the globe.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.