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Cyprus - MIGS calls on government to support strong EU maternity leave provisions

[Brussels, 9 December 2010] EWL member organisation in Cyprus, the Mediterranean Institute for Gender Studies (MIGS) has issued a Press Release expressing disappointment at the outcome of this Monday’s social affairs Council meeting in Brussels when ministers rejected a legislative proposal of the European Parliament giving 20 weeks fully paid maternity leave tor new mothers and 2 weeks to fathers. MIGS is calling for transparency from the Cypriot government and a public dialogue on the issue.

MIGS Press Release

[Nicosia, 8 December 2010] The Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies (MIGS) expresses its disappointment at the decision of European Council to ignore and effectively block the European Parliament’s proposal to increase European minimum standards for maternity and paternity leave provisions.

On October 20, the European Parliament passed a resolution in favour of increasing maternity leave provisions from 14 weeks to 20 weeks and the introduction of two weeks leave for new fathers, both fully paid. The proposal also added provisions banning discrimination of pregnant workers and protecting the health and safety of pregnant women at work. The European Parliament decision, supported by a large majority, sent a clear and strong message to European leaders on the primacy of the human rights and well-being of the women and men living in Europe whom they represent. "Maternity cannot be regarded as a burden on social security systems, it is an investment in our future", said rapporteur Edite Estrela during the debate in plenary.
Despite this, in a decision that has sent shockwaves among women’s rights organisations and NGOs across Europe, the Council of Ministers has disregarded the Parliament position, putting into question the role of the only directly elected institution in the EU.

“This decision demonstrates that EU Governments do not take progress towards equality between women and men and the future of our society seriously”, says Susana Pavlou, Director of the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies. “It is not enough to play lip service women’s rights. The decision to reject the Parliament’s proposal is an affront to the millions of women across the EU that sacrifice their careers in order to raise a family”.

Throughout the EU, parenthood continues to have a significant long-term impact on women’s participation in the labour market. Women’s employment rate drops by 11.5 percentage points when they have children under 12, whereas men in the same category have an employment rate 6.8 percentage points higher than other men of working age. In Cyprus the proportion of employed women with children 0-6 is 69% with the respective rates for men at 97%. A much higher percentage of women than men are in part-time employment, and women aged 35-44 face significant barriers to re-entering the labour market after taking time off to have children. Women’s marginalization in the labour market also directly contributes to the gender pay gap, which in Cyprus stands at 23.9% and is among the highest in Europe.

These inequalities point toward the complete lack of suitable measures for reconciliation between work and family life, “an issue that was at the heart of the proposal supported by the European Parliament”, explains Ms Pavlou.

There has been no public disclosure of the position of the Cyprus Government, despite indications from the ruling party that it would take a more favourable position. Thus the question remains as to whether the Government of Cyprus has sufficient political will to translate its stated commitments to gender equality into concrete action.

MIGS calls for disclosure of the government position on the maternity leave directive and for a public dialogue on the issue with the participation of all relevant stakeholders, including women’s organisations and NGOs. We also call on the state to address the real obstacles to women’s participation in the labour market and to long-term economic sustainability. At this time of economic crisis and demographic change, Cyprus and all EU Member States have a duty to take progressive, forward-looking measures that will protect the women and men alike, and the interests of society as a whole.

The Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies is a non-profit NGO affiliated to the University of Nicosia.

Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies (MIGS)
46 Makedonitissas Avenue,
P.O. Box 24005, Nicosia 1703, Cyprus
Tel: + 35722 351274 (ext.114)
Fax: +357 22 353682
E-mail: info@medinstgenderstudies.org
Website: http://www.medinstgenderstudies.org

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