European & International News

EU2020 Strategy: Gender Equality on a downwards slide?

The European Commission urges ten Member States to strengthen measures to increase women’s participation in the labour-market.

[Brussels, 1 June 2012] On Wednesday 30 May, the European Commission issued the second set of annual policy recommendations to Member States. These so called Country-Specific Recommendations are a response to the analysis of National Reform Programmes on how to improve socio-economic performance in order to reach the targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth.

EWL notes, that like last year the absence of a strong gender perspective even in areas which have recently been high on the EU political agenda such as equal pay and the promotion of women in economic decision making. Ten countries were issued recommendations to strengthen women’s participation in the labour-market and/or to strengthen child care, and in some cases care for other dependents, without specifying the need to address the barriers to ensure quality work for women with regards to pay, working conditions, and equal share of caring responsibilities with men. Only one country, namely Austria, was recommended to address the gender pay gap, despite the fact that the pay gap persists in all Member States.

More worryingly, some of the recommendations could have an adverse effect on gender equality, particularly with regards to pension reforms, the alignment of pension ages to match longevity and in some cases proposals to review indexation mechanisms (linking wages and benefits to cost-of-living standards), both for wages and pensions.

One of the five key targets of the EU2020 Strategy relates to lifting 20 million out of poverty by 2020. Reducing women’s risk of poverty will require more stringent measures as reforms in pension systems without a gender perspective could produce the opposite effect and increase the feminisation of poverty in old-age. Likewise, child poverty is strongly linked to the economic situation of, primarily female headed, single parent households.

The EWL members are currently drafting ‘Alternative Country Specific Recommendations’ which will be channeled to governments and the European Council prior to the adoption of country-specific recommendations at the end of June.

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