[Press release of the EWL and the AGE Platform, Brussels 7 March 2014] Gender inequalities will further increase unless national governments take active measures to combat gender discrimination at every stage of life.
With the ongoing retreat of the welfare state, governments are looking to reduce further pressure on public budgets, including from social protection and pension systems. The current economic crisis has only aggravated the situation obliging governments to introduce further budgetary cuts.
However, little attention has been paid to assess ultimate impact of these reforms on women and their future old-age income. “The majority of older people are women and the highest poverty rates among older people are concentrated among very old women. This is why when reforming social protection systems and labour markets it is absolutely essential to take account of the gender impact”, stated Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary General of AGE. “The slow progress towards equal pay in Europe has life-long consequences as the gender gap in pay produces an even greater gender gap in pensions which is currently 39% on average in the EU”, added Viviane Teitelbaum, President of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), “…meaning poverty for many women in the later stages of their lives”.
The challenges faced by older women have been highlighted in a joint paper by EWL and AGE, which also raises awareness on the negative impact of recent austerity measures on this population group and the need for approaching this issue from a holistic life course perspective.
Promoting gender equality at every stage of life, in particular through reducing career and pay gap, will be particularly important in this respect. It is also imperative to guarantee non-contributory income safety nets in order to keep out of poverty women with no individual pension rights.
AGE and EWL call on EU leaders to address gender equality through Europe 2020 by mainstreaming its social objectives in the economic processes of the European Semester. “By doing so, our governments will ensure that progress in economic reforms will deliver social progress and justice for all citizens and improve socio-economic cohesion within and among Member States”, concluded Parent and Teitelbaum. The needs of the most vulnerable population groups – including older women – must be addressed through stronger EU coordination of social protection and employment reforms, in full respect of Europe 2020 objective on inclusive growth for the benefit of all population and age groups.
• AGE work on adequate income in old age: www.age-platform.eu/age-policy-work/social-protection