In the last two decades a broad process of labour market reforms towards more flexible and liberal models has been taking place in Europe. For Central and Eastern European countries this evolution was an important dimension of the wider process of institutional change which accompanied their transition to market economies. This article presents the complex picture of EU countries at the outset of the recent crisis (2007) in terms of the components of earnings differentials, with particular emphasis on the dimensions of labour market flexibility identifiable with contractual arrangements (temporary versus permanent employment) and self-employment. Our main focus is on Central and Eastern European countries but we keep old EU members as benchmarks. Results highlight that different factors lie behind permanent/temporary and permanent/self-employed earnings gaps in the two regions. The dualism between regular and flexible jobs in the CEE labour market is mainly based on workers' attributes; in the Western EU the dualism is instead mainly driven by discrimination associated with labour positions.