Support for women's rights in the labour market came in the most unexpected way from Pope Francis on Wednesday, during a speech before thousands of people in St. Peter's Square, Rome. The catholic high priest said women need to be paid exactly the same as men for equal work, a long debated issue that still stains even the most mature markets in Europe and United States.

"The disparity in wages between men and women is a scandal. We need equal pay for equal work," Pope Francis said, in Italian, at the beginning of a passionate speech about gender equality. "Why is it expected for women to earn less than men? No, they have the right to the same! This disparity is a pure scandal," he reiterated, in front of 20,000 people.

Eurostat's latest data across the 28 EU member states shows that women were paid 16.4% less per hour than men in 2013. In the 17 countries that have the euro currency, the average is 16.6% below men's wages. In the UK, the gap fell to a new low last year, but it is still higher than the EU average - 17.5%, which means a woman earns 82p for every £1 paid to a man. It's been a very slow moving process through the decades.

In his speech, the Pope did not stop at the wage inequality. He also denounced the prevalent sexism in our #Society, that often blames the woman for the crisis in traditional families and even the falling rate of marriages.

"This is also an insult, and it's a form of sexism - the man always wants to dominate," the Pope said, to an enthusiastic reaction of the crowd. He asked the people not to "be like Adam," who justified himself for eating the apple in Paradise by blaming Eve.

"We need to defend women," he added, to further cheers from the audience, adding that the Gospel condemned the culture in which a man could divorce his wife for the most specious and humiliating reasons. He went on to ask for a reflexion on why so many young people do not want to get married nowadays.

Chiara Saraceno, a renowned Italian sociologist, commented on the Pope's words with a "better late than ever" reaction. "While pay equality is, or should be, a given, the sentences about the emancipation of women are the ones that seem more interesting to me, from the Catholic Church's internal point of view," she said, on a phone interview with Italian media group Repubblica.

All the while, the Pope still does not consider having women as priests (or any kind of clergy) in the Catholic church, which has granted him a lot of criticism. He's not even open to questioning the dogma. Why? Because it follows Jesus Christ's example, and he did not have any women among the apostles. #Workforce #Religion