Report on equality between women and men – 2009
The participation of women in the labour market should be considered as an essential element for the sustainable growth of the European Union (EU). However, they are victims of discrimination, professional barriers and also are more exposed than men to fluctuations in the economic situation.
Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 27 February 2009 – Equality between women and men - 2009 [COM(2009) 77 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The sixth Commission report sets out the main progress made in promoting equality between women and men in 2008. In view of the current demographic and economic challenges, the participation of women is an essential contribution to growth, employment and social cohesion in the European Union (EU).
In 2008, the rate of employment for women was close to the objectives set by the Lisbon strategy (60 % in 2010). However, the proportion varies between 36.9 % and 73.2 % according to the Member State. Moreover, women are overrepresented in precarious, short-term or part-time jobs.
They are more exposed than men to situations of poverty. This is the case for 32 % of single mothers and 21 % of women over the age of 65.
The average gap in employment rates between women and men is narrowing, and fell from 17.1 % in 2000 to 14.2 % in 2007. However, the sharing of family responsibilities remains unequal, and the employment rate of women with children falls by 12.4 percentage points whilst in the same situation that of men increases by 7.3 points.
Most qualifications in the EU (58.9 %) are obtained by women. However, their level of education does not reflect their situation on the labour market, where they are limited in terms of career development, remuneration and pension rights.
The number of female managers is quite small. The European average is 30 %. However the figure is lower than this in the majority of Member States.
Developments in regulations
In 2008, the Commission initiated infringement proceedings against certain Member States, concerning the transposition of Directive 2002/73/EC (on access to employment, vocational training and promotion) and Directive 2004/113/EC (on equal treatment in the access to goods and services).
The Commission is examining the effectiveness of existing legislation as regards equality of remuneration between men and women. It may propose, if necessary, new regulations on tackling the pay gap related to gender.
Many provisions have been adopted in order to promote reconciliation between working and family life. The Commission proposes the amendment of Directive 92/85/EEC on maternity protection, in particular by introducing an increase in minimum maternity leave to 18 weeks. These provisions should be extended, on a voluntary basis, to the self-employed and their assisting spouses. Social partners have started negotiations concerning parental leave and leave for family reasons, in addition to maternity leave, and have reached agreement. The Commission has adopted a proposal aimed at implementing this agreement through a directive. The Commission has also presented a report on childcare systems, the development of which is still insufficient in a large number of Member States.
The Council of June 2008 adopted conclusions aimed at encouraging the involvement of women in political decision-making and the elimination of sexist prejudice in society.
The contribution of equality policies to economic development, particularly in a context of economic slowdown. Changes to achieve real equality depend on removing the differences and barriers which limit the employment and the professional development of women.
The report highlights in particular the importance of:
- reconciling family life and professional life, in particular through the sharing of parental responsibility and the development of childcare services;
- combating stereotypes related to gender, through awareness-raising campaigns and the role of the media;
- increasing the participation of women in decision-making positions and their representation in electoral processes by various means;
- communication aimed at public opinion and improving understanding of the problems of equality between men and women at all levels of society.