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The impact of the crisis on gender equality needs to be addressed, say Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee of the European Parliament

[Brussels, 22 February 2013] On 19 February, the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee of the European Parliament voted a non-legislative resolution on the impact of the crisis on women. MEPs are calling the EU Member States and the European Commission to implement a set of measures to address the “double punishment” women suffer since the beginning of the crisis. The resolution will be voted in the plenary session in March.

Not a “he-cession” after all

“Women are facing a silent pernicious crisis which worsens and weakens their condition. Before the crisis there were already more women affected than men by unemployment, precarious work, part-time, low wages and slow careers. Today, as a result of austerity policies, they suffer a double punishment. This is an issue at the heart of political equality and employment. I say stop to the decline of women in society”, said Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, EPP MEPs and rapporteur of the resolution, based on the report she initiated in December 2012, available here.

The consequences of austerity measures in Europe are disastrous for women’s rights: they undermine women’s rights, perpetuate existing gender inequalities and create new ones, and hamper the prospects of sustainable and equal economic progress in Europe. The cuts in public spending have a huge impact on women’s employment since 69.2% of public sector workers in the EU are women.

Austerity measures also lead to a care crisis, since the cutbacks in public care and health services lead to the transfer of the responsibility of care from society to households, i.e. mostly women, and a return to traditional gender roles. In 2010, 28.3% of inactive and part-time working women in the EU were not able to work full time due to care responsibilities, up from 27.9% in 2009.

Moreover, those measures have a broader impact on non-economic factors: reduction of funding for women’s organisations and gender equality institutions have direct consequences by undermining women’s voices in the public sphere, and the decrease of vital services such as shelters for women victims of male violence.

Long-term measures are needed to tackle the negative impact of the crisis and invest in a sustainable future for women and for Europe

In the non-legislative resolution, MEPs call on the European Commission to stop budget cuts in the public sector, in social security benefits and social welfare, education and childcare services. They also call for greater female entrepreneurship by facilitating women’s access to microcredit and improving a public transport policy to facilitate mobility.

They also stress the structural factors which show that female poverty is not new nor only due to the current financial and economic crisis: the pay gap between men and women, gender stereotypes and the lack of proactive measures to ensure work-life balance are some of the long-standing reasons which are accentuated in the context of the crisis.

This “double punishment” is also highlighted in the EWL publication “The price of austerity – the impact of women’s rights and gender equality in Europe”, which maps the impact of austerity measures on women in the EU, based on the input of the EWL members and other sources. Recommendations are addressed to the European Commission, EU member states and women’s organisations.

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