European & International News

European Semester: More social and gender equality needed echoed at the European Parliamentary Week on Economic, Budgetary and Social matters

[Brussels, 23 January 2014] This week, on the 22nd-24th of January 2014, the European Parliamentary Week (EPW) was held in Brussels, where European and national parliamentarians from the EU met to discuss economic, budgetary and social issues, particularly in relation to the European Semester process. The event was co-organized by the Hellenic Parliament and the European Parliament. As a part of the EPW, the European Parliamentary committees on employment (EMPL), budgets (BUDG) and monetary matters (ECON) organised Interparliamentary Committee Meetings (ICM).

At the ICM organised by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, on January 22nd, representative’s national parliaments gave their accounts of the current social and employment situation in their home countries as well as recently implemented and forthcoming planned reforms.

There was a general call for increased transparency and democracy in the European semester process so that both the European Parliament and national Parliaments should be more involved in the process. Several participants also stressed the importance of strengthening the social dimension of the EU and the European Monetary Union (EMU) in order to achieve a sustainable economic recovery in Europe. In this context the new scoreboard of employment and social indicators proposed by the Commission in the Draft Joint Employment Report, was discussed.

The scoreboard indicators are meant to be used as a tool to measure the employment and social progress in Europe within the European Semester framework. However both the EMPL committee and several representatives of national parliaments judged the proposed scoreboard to be insufficient. In an attempt to remedy this insufficiency, the EMPL committee has drafted an own-initiative report on the Employment and Social Aspects of the 2014 Annual Growth Survey.

The Employment Committee calls for more stringent gender equality in the Europe 2020 Strategy

The EMPL committee report calls for additional indicators such as child poverty levels, decent work index and a European living wage index. The draft report also stresses the importance of increasing women’s participation in the labour market if the 2020 employment rate goals are to be reached. The EMPL committee calls for affordable child care, adequate maternity, paternity and parental leave schemes and flexible working hours and working location. The committee also calls for the inclusion of gender equality as a part of their national policies and National Reform Programs (NRPs).

National parliamentarians, particularly from Ireland and Italy stressed the importance of including the Gender Pay Gap in the scoreboard indicators.

While the EWL welcomes the introduction of better social indicators as a part of the European Semester process, and recognizes the importance of including the Gender Pay Gap in the scoreboard indicators, it is crucial that all of the measures in the scoreboard need to be gender disaggregated. Women’s employment rate is still 12 % lower than men’s (2012 Eurostat figures), women are at a higher risk of poverty and the majority of single parent households are headed by women.

Also, it is crucial to introduce concrete gender equality objectives in the 2020 strategy and to include recommendations aimed at achieving these gender equality objectives in the Country Specific Recommendations. The recommendations regarding affordable child care, leave schemes and flexibility in working arrangements in the EMPL committee report are crucial if gender equality in the labour market is to be achieved in Europe but as one MEP correctly pointed out at the EMPL committee meeting on the 22nd of January, this is not just a women’s issue but one that concerns the whole of the European society.

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