European & International News

Employment Package - Potential or Pitfall?

[Brussels, 20 April 2012] The European Commission’s so called “Employment Package” presented on 18 April in Strasbourg aims to assist Member States design labour market reforms to boost job creation particularly in key sectors with growth potential, namely “green jobs”, ICT’s and the so called “white jobs”.

Among the positive things is a focus on job creation in growth sectors that not only include the male dominated ICT and green (technical) jobs but also the health and care sector’s “white jobs”. However, these three sectors are strongly gender segregated and carry the risk of reinforcing the gender segregated labour-market if no measures are taken to ensure that all growth sectors are addressed within a gender equality framework. Without a progressive gender equality strategy and gender equality objectives, the Employment Package is likely to reinforce the existing gendered pay gap and the gender segregation of the work force.

Gender inequalities exist in the three key sectors, two of which are male dominated. Out of an estimated 2 million new positions expected in the energy sector alone 80% are likely to be filled by men situated in the higher echelons of salary scales. The Employment Package proposes to establish minimum wages differentiated by sectors which means that the gender pay gap will remain intact with the risk of increased gender inequality. As it stands, the pay gap between women and men has strong ties to the gendered segregation in female versus male dominated sectors and the value that is attached to these sectors.

The strong emphasis in the Employment Package on flexibility of the work force fails to address caring responsibilities for children, elderly or other dependent persons throughout the life-cycle. While acknowledging the fast growing need for health care services in an ageing Europe, the Employment Package must boost and value the care sector in the broadest sense.

Among the interesting proposals in this connection is a European Skills Council on Nursing and Care Workers as part of an Action Plan for the EU Health Work Force, as well as a Consultation Paper on the Household Services Workforce; but there is need for a more comprehensive plan for the care economy. In practice, the strategy must re-define “white jobs” to ensure that care is understood in the broadest sense, to include care for children, the elderly and dependent persons as well as health care and care related household services.

Whether women and men in the whole work force benefit from the job creation incentives or whether the Employment Package merely reinforces the existing gender segregation and further deepens the gender pay gap depends on a progressive and coherent gender equality framework in the implementation of the different actions contained in the Package and the way in which the European Social Funds will be used.

The EWL will keep a close watch on how this will be translated into concrete actions on the ground.

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