The European Commission has adopted a five-year strategy for promoting equality between women and men in Europe, which aims in particular to “use the potential and the talent pool of women more extensively and efficiently, so that economic and business benefits can be gained”. The Strategy will in turn contribute to achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
While the employment rate of women in the EU has increased from 52% in 1998 to 58.6% today, big gaps remain as women often account for the vast majority of part-time workers (32% vs. 8% male part-time workers) and have more precarious jobs – i.e. poorly paid, insecure, unprotected jobs. The pay gap between women and men in the EU also remains wide, with a difference of 17.6% in hourly wages.
In addition, the impact of parenthood on labour market participation is still very different for women and men in the EU today, because women continue to shoulder a disproportionate part of the responsibilities involved in running a family. Also, current demographic trends mean that women and men increasingly have to care for dependants other than children over indefinite periods of time.
To address these issues, the new strategy has translated the principles set out in the Women’s Charter – adopted by the European Commission in March 2010 – into a series of specific actions spelled out under five priorities: equal economic independence for women and men; equal pay for work of equal value; equality in decision-making; dignity, integrity and ending gender violence; and promoting gender equality beyond the EU.
Gender inequities influence a person’s health and wellbeing through, among other routes, discriminatory employment patterns, violence against women, lack of decision-making power, and unfair divisions of work, leisure, and possibilities of improving one’s life. As highlighted by the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH), “taking action to improve gender equity in health and to address women’s rights to health is one of the most direct and potent ways to reduce health inequities and ensure effective use of health resources”.
Can the EU new gender strategy offer positive entry points for change? What do you think? Please let us know via [email protected].
The European Commission’s Strategy for equality between women and men (2010-2015) is available here.
To download the final report of the Women and Gender Equity Knowledge Network to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, entitled: “Unequal, Unfair, Ineffective and Inefficient Gender Inequity in Health: Why it exists and how we can change it”, please click here.