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Report on equality between women and men - 2008

Equality between women and men in Europe is still a two-sided balance. In terms of quantity, there is without a doubt constant progress in the situation of women: their participation in the labour market continues to grow and their qualifications are now higher than those of men. In terms of quality, however, many challenges remain, particularly as regards the pay gap, labour market segregation and the reconciliation of professional and private life. This report looks at the main developments in the past year, identifies future problems and sets guidelines for dealing with them.

ACT

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 23 January 2008, Equality between women and men - 2008 [COM(2008) 10 - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This year, the European Commission is publishing its fifth report on equality between women and men, the first to cover the enlarged European Union (EU) of 27 Member States.

Gender gap: main developments

The figures for recent years show that the situation of women on the labour market in Europe is subject to two-tier development:

  • major progress in terms of quantity, on the one hand;
  • quality of employment remaining unfavourable in many respects on the other hand.

Female employment is still the driving force behind growth in employment within the European Union (EU):

  • 7.5 of the 12 million new jobs created since 2000 are held by women;
  • the female employment rate is currently 57.2% (+ 3.5 points in comparison to 2000, in contrast to the increase by less than one point for men);
  • the employment rate for women over 55 years has increased more rapidly than that for men in the same age range (it is currently 34.8%, i.e. an increase of 7.4 points in comparison to 2000);
  • a significant narrowing of the employment rate gap between men and women, falling from 17.1 points in 2000 to 14.4 points in 2006.

This point, given the fact that women have better success rates at school and university (59%), generally raises the question of the quality of work for women:

  • the pay gap has stabilised at 15% since 2003 (it was 16% in 2000);
  • sectoral and occupational segregation by gender is not diminishing and is even increasing in some countries;
  • the proportion of female managers in businesses has stagnated at 33% and there is very little progression in the numbers of female politicians;
  • the balance between professional and private life remains precarious (the employment rate for mothers with young children is only 62.4% compared with 91.4% for fathers);
  • 76.5% of part-time workers are women;
  • recourse to temporary work is also more common among women (15.1% compared with approximately 14% for men).

This occupational imbalance is not without effect on the social situation of women:

  • long-term unemployment is still more common among women (4.5% compared with 3.5% for men);
  • the risk of poverty, particularly among women over the age of 65 (21%, i.e. 5% more than for men), is reinforced by shorter, slower and less well-paid careers.

Policy and legislative developments

The Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men, launched in 2006, has given fresh impetus to Community policy in this area. An annual work programme allows the Commission to ensure follow-up action.

In 2007, the Commission launched the second phase of formal consultation of the social partners at European level on the possible approach of Community action for the reconciliation of professional, private and family life with a view to improving or supplementing the existing framework.

The Commission has also given its support to the European Alliance for Families.

Infringement proceedings for failure to transpose Directive 2002/73/EC on equal treatment have practically been wound up. Analysis of the conformity of national implementing measures started in 2007 and will be continued in 2008.

Furthermore, the Commission has demonstrated its full commitment to tackling the pay gap between women and men in its Communication of 18 July 2007.

Progress has also been achieved with the establishment of the European Institute for Gender Equality.

Challenges and policy guidelines

The report stresses the need to significantly improve the quality of employment for women, while confirming the progress achieved in terms of quantity.

With this in mind, and in particular through the new cycle of the European Strategy for Growth and Jobs, it advocates concentrating structural, legislative and financial efforts on:

  • reducing differences in pay;
  • in-serve training;
  • health and welfare at work;
  • the reconciliation of professional and private life (accessibility of childcare services, the quality of services of general interest, etc.);
  • action to combat stereotypes linked to gender and cultural origin;
  • support for the implementation and follow-up of political commitments.

Background

In addition to the implementation of measures defined in the Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men, 2007 saw a number of major landmarks in connection with:

  • the contribution of the Commission to the establishment of common flexicurity principles;
  • the celebration of the 50th anniversary of European gender equality policy;
  • the launch of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All;
  • the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Amsterdam Treaty, the basis for the European Employment Strategy and for gender mainstreaming in Community policies.
Last updated: 06.03.2008
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