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Report on equality between women and men 2006

The European Commission presents its annual report on the main developments in 2005 in the area of gender equality. It looks at the progress made, the challenges to be met and the strategic guidelines to be followed, and examines in depth the reconciliation of work and private life.

ACT

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, of 22 February 2006, on equality between women and men - 2006 [COM(2006) 71 final - Official Journal C 67 of 18.03.2006].

SUMMARY

Gender policies contribute to employment and growth. In the renewed Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs, gender equality is recognised to be essential in meeting labour market challenges. Between 1999 and 2004, three quarters of the new jobs created in the European Union (EU) were filled by women.

However, the persistence of gender gaps underlines that more can be done to tap into the productive potential of women, particularly in terms of work-life balance. It is necessary to step up efforts to help men and women reconcile work and their private responsibilities at all stages in their lives.

State of play and main developments

Further steps forward were taken in 2005 in the area of equality for women and men:

  • Commission announcement of a communication on a "Roadmap for equality between women and men" in 2006 which will identify challenges and actions for the EU up to 2010;
  • adoption of an amended proposal for a Directive to simplify and modernise existing Community legislation on equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment;
  • creation of equality bodies;
  • the proposal to set up a European Institute for Gender Equality;
  • adoption by the social partners, in the context of the European social dialogue, of a Framework of Actions for Gender Equality (four priorities: addressing gender roles, promoting women in decision-making, supporting work-life balance and tackling the gender pay gap);
  • adoption of a common agenda for the integration of third country nationals (gender equality in immigration, trafficking in human beings, sexual exploitation, domestic labour exploitation);
  • adoption by the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament of a Joint Statement on "The European Consensus on Development", which identified gender equality as one of the five key principles of the development policy;
  • integration of gender equality as a priority of the EU's new Strategy for Africa.

Moreover, in its conclusions of 18 April 2005, the Competitiveness Council underlined the increasing importance given to gender equality in science and access for women to leading positions. However, Member States must take further steps to increase the number of women in research positions.

2005 also marked the 10th anniversary celebration of the Beijing Platform for Action, on which occasion governments worldwide took stock of the progress made so far. Although much had been achieved, there were still areas of concern, including women's access to education, property, work and health care, maternal mortality and the situation of women, particularly in Africa.

Gender equality and employment

In the area of employment, disparities between men and women have steadily fallen in the last decade, mainly thanks to the massive increase in the entry of women into the labour market. The employment rate among women in the EU rose to 55.7% in 2004, up 0.7 percentage points compared with 2003. The employment rate gap was reduced to 15.2 points in 2004.

However, the figures vary considerably from one country to another. In terms of employment rates, the gap between women and men is less than 10% in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Baltic countries, and more than 20% in Cyprus, Malta, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain and Greece.

Despite this generally positive picture, significant imbalances still exist. Women

  • are involved mainly in traditionally "female" activities and occupations, which has reinforced segregation in the labour market;
  • are more involved in part-time work than men (32.6% of women in employment against only 7.4% of men in employment). Here the figures also vary greatly from one country to another. For example, fewer than 10% of women in employment work part-time in Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Greece, while in Luxembourg, Belgium, United Kingdom and Germany almost 40% of women who work do so on a part-time basis. In the Netherlands, this figure is as high as 75%;
  • have more difficulties related to work-life balance, and this affects their career. Within enterprises, women account for only 32% of managers. Only 10% of members of the boards and 3% of CEOs of the larger EU enterprises are women. In education and research there are many female graduates (43% of PhDs are women), yet their presence decreases consistently as they progress on the career ladder (only 15% of full professors are women);
  • are the victims of a significant pay gap. On average, women earn 15% less than men for every hour worked;
  • are at greater risk of social exclusion than men. The risk of poverty, in particular, is higher amongst older women and amongst single mothers with dependant children.

Policy orientations

In light of the above, the Commission reaffirms its commitment to the Community approach, combining gender mainstreaming and specific positive actions.

The Commission encourages the Member States and social partners to take action to:

  • reduce the employment rate gap between women and men;
  • scale down the pay gap and attack its underlying causes;
  • ensure the quality of jobs and a good work environment;
  • reform tax and benefits systems in order to make the labour market more attractive;
  • ensure the full support of the Structural Funds through the effective integration of a gender perspective in strategy and programming documents, and adequate funding for specific gender equality actions.

In addition, to promote an effective reconciliation of work and private life, Member States should:

  • step up their efforts to meet the Barcelona targets for childcare (providing childcare for 33% of children aged 0 to 3 years and 90% of children from 3 years to compulsory school age by 2010);
  • support the development of care for older and disabled persons;
  • promote and disseminate innovative and adaptable work arrangements that take into account the different needs at different stages of life;
  • make access to public services compatible with work schedules;
  • tackle sexist stereotypes and encourage men to take up their domestic and family responsibilities.

At political level, the Commission encourages the Member States to:

  • promote partnership and dialogue between all parties at the policy making and implementation stages;
  • strengthen their implementation of the principle of gender mainstreaming into all relevant policy areas;
  • reinforce gender mainstreaming in all chapters of the National Reform Programmes (NRPs);
  • support the good functioning of the national machinery in support of gender equality, including the equality bodies;
  • ensure that gender bias is avoided in policy monitoring.

Finally, to give gender equality its international dimension:

  • Member States should take concrete steps to accelerate the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action;
  • developing countries should be supported in their efforts in this area by appropriate technical and financial assistance from the EU;
  • Member States should take into account the gender perspective in partnerships with non-EU countries and in development strategies;
  • acceding, candidate and potential candidate countries should continue to be supported in their efforts to transpose, implement and enforce the Community acquis as well as to create the necessary institutions to apply it.
 
Last updated: 11.05.2006
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