[Brussels, 13 January 2022] As we end another challenging year and despite continuous strain on women and girls in the COVID context, there are however some things to celebrate as we begin 2022, especially the development and shaping of a better Social Europe for women’s rights.
Many policy developments in this area have a direct impact on women and girls’ rights. In 2022, we want to go further and call for a Care Deal for Europe and more robust measures to close the gender pay gap that have life-long consequences on women’s earnings, pensions and poverty.
In 2021, some key policy proposals were adopted at the EU level, within the framework of and follow-up to the European Pillar of Social Rights and its Action Plan, adopted in 2020.
While all these initiatives are very welcome, we must nevertheless ensure that women’s rights and the transformative nature of gender mainstreaming guide the implementation as we move forward.
These policy initiatives include:
• Council Recommendation for a European Child Guarantee, to address child poverty and ensure that each child has access to services, education and equal rights. As children do not live in a vacuum, these measures will also benefit women as the majority of single parent households are headed by women.
• The European Platform on Combatting Homelessness was officially launched in June 2021 by the Portuguese Presidency . However, no declared gender dimension is embedded nor was the EWL invited to be part of the Platform. It is essential that women’s homelessness in Europe is addressed, as we know, this is on the increase but lack of data means that women remain invisible. In 2022, the EWL will continue to put pressure on the Platform to ensure a strong gender dimension.
• The European Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive on improving working conditions in platform work, which will be negotiated next year. Given that women are over represented in precarious work, the measures in this Directive, once adopted, should provide greater protection in terms of working conditions in this sector.
• An EU Action Plan for Social Economy was adopted in December, comprising of 10 actions including a proposal for a Council Recommendation for developing social economy framework conditions in 2023.
• The proposal for a Directive on adequate Minimum Wages in the EU is finally ready for joint negotiations in 2022 between the European Parliament and the Council who agreed their positions last month. We know that sectors where minimum wages exist, the gender pay gap is lower and therefore, this legislative proposal is another milestone that should have a positive impact in reducing the gap over time.
• More specific measures are also necessary to close the gender pay, pension and life-long earnings gap, and within this spirit the EC adopted a proposal for aDirective on binding measures on Pay Transparency in March this year. (see below)
• A European Care Strategy (see below) will focus on two actions in 2022: the revision of the (2002) Barcelona childcare targets and a Recommendation on long-term care. (see below)
Our focus in 2022
Close the gender pay gap : Pay Transparency
The proposal for binding measures to address the persistent gender pay gap is welcome. Women have been at the frontline in the COVID pandemic and the essential value of work in the health and care sectors, in retail and cleaning over the past two years has been made visible as these jobs are often under paid and often within precarious contracts.
Therefore, the EWL welcomes the Pay Transparency Directive, which it considers to be one step as part of broader systemic changes that are needed to address the continuing gender pay, that has life-long consequences on pensions and income gaps and ultimately poverty gaps.
A Care Deal for Europe
Caring for others is central to the continuation of society, and caring for others, and being cared for, at different stages in our lives, is one of the central emotional experiences of our shared humanity.
Since its publication of the Purple Pact: A feminist approach to the economy at the beginning of 2020, the EWL working Group on feminist economics (FemEco), continues to follow-up on the recommendations therein. The central role of care is at the essence of the Purple Pact, which calls for a Care Deal for Europe, in response to the many current challenges we are facing today, and places care as a collective need that calls for a collective responsibility and solidarity for and between women and men throughout the life cycle.
We were therefore very encouraged by the EC President Speech on the State of the Union calling for a European Care Strategy (page 7). This will be followed up in the EC 2022 work programme (page 8) for which there will be a Communication on a European care strategy, accompanied by the revision of the Barcelona (childcare) targets and a proposal for a Council Recommendation on long-term care.
The European Parliament’s own-initiative report on the impact of COVID-19 on women, initiated by MEP Frances Fitzgerald, furthermore called for an EU Care Strategy that would take a holistic and life-long approach to care, taking into account the needs of both carers and those who receive care;” (paragraph 25)
This robust policy framework provides many opportunities to further develop our call for a Care Deal for Europe, which goes beyond the EC actions next year and makes the link between the European Green Deal and a Care Deal, as a sustainable economic model that takes care of the planet and of each other.
We will continue to work to develop key recommendations for a holistic Care Deal that responds to collective needs, develops quality and accessible care services, generates sustainable employment and redirects investments towards the care economy.
Join us in making 2022 a gender equal, social Europe that cares and places equality between women and men at its core!