EWL News

Lost in translation?

[Brussels, 25 April 2013] As the European Semester enters the third year, the EWL members have compiled country-specific-recommendations (CSRs) for the European Commission who will be issuing recommendations to the Member States in the coming weeks. Economic governance is putting pressure on Member States to reduce public deficits with consequences on service provision, social benefits, wages and overall gender equality policies, all of which is happening in the absence of a gender equality framework! While the EWL members concentrate on their respective countries there is, nevertheless, a common thread weaving a shared vision of what the European Commission should be recommending to ensure that gender equality doesn’t get ‘lost in translation’ in the complex web of processes that encompass the European semester, the ‘signpost’ to the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

The main messages:

  • Gender equality is a transversal issue, enshrined in European law, applicable to all areas of policy including economic policies; it is non-negotiable, and must not be rolled back in times of austerity.

Lost in translation?

  • Previous CSRs tend to use neutral terms such as ‘second earners’, ‘single-parent households’ ‘child poverty’, which in fact hide gender realities as these primarily concern women. The absence of a gender equality perspective in the analysis and drafting of CSRs makes it difficult to address the gender dimension. Specific measures and gender mainstreaming, including gender impact assessments and gender budgeting must be systematically applied, particularly in economic policies.

Care policies must not be threatened by austerity measures.

  • The need for good quality, accessible and affordable care policies and services across the life-cycle are vital and should be safeguarded and strengthened. Care policies must not be framed as a ‘women’s- only’ problem, they must seek to ensure that women and men have choices in their lives to become both equal carers’ and equal earners, if the goal to achieve a 75% employment rate for women and men by 2020 is still on course. The Barcelona childcare targets, adopted over 10 years ago and still not met in some Member States, new targets that go ‘beyond Barcelona’ to address the care needs of an ageing population as well as dependent family members and the parental leave directive need to be closer monitored and recommendations formulated around these in CSRs.

Women’s diversity must be acknowledged and recognised so that the barriers to women’s participation in all areas of life, including in the labour-market, are identified and addressed to safeguard the rights of all women.

  • Calling on Member States to ‘reform pension systems and to align both women and men’s retirement age’, will not alone bring about gender equality but the opposite. Women’s employment rates remain lower than men’s in the pre-pension age category as well as for women of migrant/ethnic origin, women with disabilities, specific measures are required to remove the obstacle to ensure equal access of all women to the labour-market.

Despite the fact that the gender pay gap exists in all Member States (and leads to the gender pension gap), only one country, namely Austria, received a recommendation to address this.

  • In order to close the gender pay gap by 2020, every Member State should be required to take steps to decrease the gap by at least 5 percentage points annually. However, it is necessary to monitor whether real progress is made to improve women’s working conditions with regards to pay, or whether decreasing the pay gap is the result of a deterioration of men’s pay against which the gender pay is measured.

Finally, the European semester requires a strong democratic process with the engagement of stakeholders, including women’s organisations.

  • This is a strong message the EWL members are sending to Member States to ensure that the European semester process is democratic and one that belongs to us all.

Download the EWL’s CSRs for 2013, which includes in the annex detailed analysis of the CSRs 2012 and proposals for CSRs in 2013.

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