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EWL calls for targets to address the feminisation of poverty and to include a gender dimension in macro-economic policies

[Brussels, 17/10/2014] On International Day of Eradication of Poverty, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) stresses the urgency to address women’s poverty and calls for specific targets to meet the EU2020 headline target, which aims to lift 20 million people out of poverty by 2020. Since 2012, poverty rates in the EU have risen by six million, and in the absence of urgent action, including gender and social impact assessments of macro-economic policies, these figures are likely to rise.

At a recent conference on the poverty target of the EU2020 Strategy for “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, outgoing Commissioner Laszlo Andor emphasised that as we are already at the half way point of the 2020 Strategy, a review of the strategy is on the new Commission’s agenda. The so-called Mid-Term Review offers an opportunity to look at the lessons that can be learned, identify good practice and improvements that can be made for the remainder of the Strategy.

The conference looked at the driving factors of poverty with examples from some member states, and focused mainly on two issues: poverty as a result of the economic crisis and austerity policies and, pre-existing poverty before the crisis, as growth and the market economy are pushed to extremes in times of crisis.
Whichever narrative, there was a missing factor in all the analysis as the causes of poverty: precarious work, low wages (the “working poor”), unemployment, debts, addictions, etc, were discussed in the absence of a gender dimension. Yet, women represent the majority of all those in these vulnerable situations.

There was consensus at the conference regarding the inevitability of future crises; it is neither the first nor the last, and when the European Union faces another crisis, the EU economy and institutional framework have to be prepared. However, while it was stressed that policies, at all levels, have to be put in place to combat the effects of crisis, more emphasis was put on the need for labour market changes and ongoing processes of convergence among member states, no mention was made of the urgent need to assess the impact of macro-economic policies on poverty and in particular on women’s poverty.
Women are the first to be hit and the hardest in times of crisis. 85% of female workers are at risk of having a precarious job , women earn on average 16% less than men and are at higher risk of poverty, and by extension are overrepresented among the “working poor”, 85% of single parent households that are headed by women .

It’s time to act! Gender and social impact assessments must be included in macro-economic policies and Member States must break down the poverty targets by gender, which will necessitate moving away from household unit measures which hide the prevalence of the feminisation of poverty in Europe.

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